Disney/ABC Domestic Television has decided to end the 24-year run of the syndicated show now known as “At the Movies” in August. The news prompted one of the original co-stars, Roger Ebert, to tweet “RIP, ‘At the Movies’.” But Ebert himself may be coming back to TV.
The syndicated show launched in the 1980s on commercial television was preceded by a public television show, “Sneak Previews” in the 1970s produced for PBS by WTTW-TV Chicago. It featured dueling reviews by Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel and Ebert, his Sun-Times counterpart. The format was generally the same through the move to commercial syndication and various name changes.
After Siskel died of cancer in 1999, Ebert was joined by Richard Roeper, also a Sun-Times critic. But Ebert had to suspend his co-hosting in 2006 as he underwent treatment for thyroid cancer, so Roeper was joined by Michael Phillips of the Tribune.
Disney tried to update the show and appeal to younger audiences with a 2008 revamp, with new co-hosts Ben Lyons from E! and Ben Mankiewicz of Sirius and Turner Classic Movies. About a year later a new pairing was announced, with Phillips returning, joined by A.O. Scott of the New York Times. But Disney/ABC Domestic Television announced the decision this week to end the show, thanking Scott, Phillips and the production and paying homage to Ebert and Siskel for starting the show on its long run.
But despite no longer having a voice, due to repeated cancer surgeries, Ebert is working on a new TV series. In his “Roger Ebert’s Journal” for the Sun-Times, the veteran film critic says video tests with several potential hosts took place several weeks ago in LA and “[we] know who we will use.” Ebert says he and his wife, Chaz, will produce the show. And while he can’t do any back-and-forth debate, he does expect to make occasional on-air appearances.
“We will go full-tilt New Media: Television, net streaming, cell phone apps, Facebook, Twitter, iPad, the whole enchilada,” Ebert said of the new venture. Click here to read his entire blog entry.