At the Movies: Syndicated TV Show Cancelled After 24 Years, Roger Ebert Plans New Show

At the MoviesIt’s the end of an era. The At the Movies syndicated series is coming to an end after two dozen years on the air.

The program, produced by Disney’s Buena Vista Entertainment, began in 1986 as Siskel & Ebert & the Movies. It was the third movie review series for newspaper critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. They had left their two previous shows due to contract disputes.

In 1989, the series title was changed to simply Siskel & Ebert. Things remained essentially the same until 1999 and the untimely death of Siskel from a brain tumor. For a season, the program was renamed Roger Ebert & the Movies and various film critics filled the second spot. In 2000, Richard Roeper was chosen as the permanent second critic and program was renamed Ebert & Roeper and the Movies. It was soonafter shortened to just Ebert & Roeper.

In 2002, Ebert was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and in 2006, his spot on the show was filled with guest critics. In the summer of 2007, the program’s title was changed to At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper, de-emphasizing the critics’ names. In 2008, Ebert was permanently replaced on-camera by Michael Phillips but remained involved. It was rechristened At the Movies.

That new pairing was short-lived as Ebert, Phillips, and Roeper ended their association with the show in August 2008.

Disney hired younger critics Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz to host. Disney hoped the pair would attract a younger demographic but the ratings fell. They were replaced after a year by A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips for more serious film criticism. That apparently hasn’t worked out as the show has now been cancelled after 24 years, several hosts, and thousands of reviews.

A statement from Disney says, “After 24 seasons with us in national syndication, the highly regarded movie review show At the Movies (formerly known as Siskel & Ebert and Ebert & Roeper) will air its last original broadcast the weekend of August 14, 2010. This was a very difficult decision, especially considering the program’s rich history and iconic status within the entertainment industry, but from a business perspective it became clear this weekly, half-hour, broadcast syndication series was no longer sustainable. We gratefully acknowledge the outstanding work of the program’s current co-hosts A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips and top-notch production staff, and it is with heartfelt appreciation that we extend very special thanks to the two brilliant, visionary and incomparable critics that started it all, Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel.”

Yesterday, Ebert tweeted, “R.I.P., ‘At the Movies.’ Memories.”

Today, Ebert reiterated his and his wife Chaz’s plans to produce a new movie review program for television. He wrote, “No, Wednesday’s cancellation of At the Movies hasn’t discouraged us. We believe a market still exists for a weekly show where a couple of critics review new movies.”

He’s unable to give many new details about his plans but could say that the title will be Roger Ebert presents At the Movies. He recalled that the “At the Movies” part of the title had been used by he and Siskel for their second program, for Tribune. He also maintains that the well-known “thumbs up/thumbs down” will return as well.

Ebert writes that they’ve held video tests for the hosts and know who they’ll use. Echoing Ebert’s own growing web presence, the new show will make full use of new media as well. He may do occasional appearances using his computer-supplied voice.

What do you think? Are you surprised or sad that At the Movies is ending? Who were your favorite hosts?

Canceled and renewed TV show

14 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. Bruce Grosse says

    I can’t discribe the sadness I feel with the passing of this show. I have followed it through my life from college to middle age; and whatever else that may have been going on through it, my ups and downs, “At the Movies” was always a bit of secret enjoyment I could find.
    I never expected Roger and Gene to go on forever, but as the hosts changed my love of the show never varied. I had hoped I suppose that as P.T. Barnum once said “the show must go on!” I am 51 years old and the child in me is screaming that some corporate giant has killed Kermit the frog.

  2. Katty Radd says

    I am so saddened to see this show go. This was one of the most decent TV show worth watching. I never missed an episode on Sunday afternoons. When they moved it to Saturday I could not get a chance to watch it, so I would watch it on the net. Scott and Phillips did a great job. I will miss the show very much. Please get rid of the silly “Red Carpet” and bring this show back.

  3. Mario L says

    What a shame.
    An other intelligent show is gone.
    A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips did a fantastic job
    Hey, Walt (or networks)! Why didn’t you gave the show a decent time slot ? Not 2:00 in the morning !
    I guess I’ll have to watch WipeOut, now…

  4. r misner says

    Agree with Elaine…cant believe Disney cant afford to run this program. Phillips and Scott have done a good job and the show is well worth continuing. Another lousy corporate decision.

  5. says

    Roger Ebert is the only reviewer I trust to tell me if I should spend my very little disposable income at the movies. We cannot afford to waste $10 on a bad movie.

  6. Rayne Merrywood says

    Watching “At the Movies” has been one of the few bright, entertaining and smart “talk” shows around. I will miss my weekly 1/2 hour of enjoyment on the tube. It’s one of the few shows I make it a point to watch. It looks like now we will have nothing but more of the “what’s hot, what’s happenin’, who’s ******** up” type of entertainment crap. When my local station substituted “On the Red Carpet” for “At the Movies” one Saturday night before the announcement that “At the Movies” would soon be dust, I had to change the channel QUICKLY (aghhh! what a loser show “Carpet” was) and got a sick feeling of upcoming doom. I’ve watched “At the Movies” for years. The current hosts have been terrific. Just the right flavor, personalities, and ability to communicate in intelligent patter. I’ve been watching this show for years, and it’s one of the few shows that I will greatly miss after it’s gone.

  7. says

    I have watched this show for many years and am very sad to see it cancelled. The two guys currently on are totally intelligent and respectful and I am always influenced on what to see by them. I am very sad to see this show cancelled when there is so much low level TV currently on.

  8. Celeste Moon says

    Many of us cannot WASTE money going to see BAD films. I rely on Roger Ebert (in the past the wonderful Gene Siskel) to give me expert reviews and help me determine which movies to spend my hard earned and miniscule disposable income. I will follow Roger Ebert, not because of his reputation or eloquence, but simply because he is RIGHT.

  9. LLyn says

    I rely on this program for my Netflix picks. I will even spend the full fare for a 2 thumbs up at a local theater. I stopped watching the show when they put the two dudes on, no real meat to their reviews. Thoughtful programing is leaving the airwaves. I will look forward to the new Ebert production. There has to be something for people who don’t enjoy programs where hosts scream at each other.

  10. Robert says

    I’m sad to see an intelligent show leave the airwaves and even sadder to see the pop-fodder that has taken its place. Herewith a typical exchange on the new show ~

    ~ “wow, that looks like it’s going to be great!”
    ~ “yeh, it sure does!”

    scintillating repartee .

    And so go the masses. Oh well.

  11. MK says

    I Tivo it weekly because it airs at 1am on a Sunday. Given that it seems to air at weird times in all markets (I lived in NV and FL where it also aired in the middle of the night) no wonder its ratings are down. Duh!?!

  12. Melissa says

    I love this show, I’ll be very sad to see it go… Looking forward to Ebert’s new show though. Definitely will watch it.

Leave a Comment

Your comment may need approval from a moderator before it appears. We review comments to weed out spam, duplicate postings and personal attacks. We welcome constructive discussion.