Roger Ebert plans to revive 'At the Movies'

POPCORN? Ebert, above, who lost his voice during his a bout with cancer, plans to bring back his show, which he once hosted with Richard Roeper, right.
POPCORN? Ebert, above, who lost his voice during his a bout with cancer, plans to bring back his show, which he once hosted with Richard Roeper, right. (Matt Sayles/associated Press)
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By Lisa de Moraes
Saturday, September 11, 2010

Roger Ebert will attempt to resuscitate "At the Movies," the movie-review program in which he sparred with fellow film critic Gene Siskel.

The half-hour show, which attempts to continue the 35-year-old dueling-critics format, will be shot at the Chicago public-TV station WTTW, where it all began back in 1975. Ebert and his wife, Chaz, who are executive-producing, hope the revived movie-review show will be picked up by other public broadcasting stations.

"I believe that by returning to its public roots, our new show will win better and more consistent time slots in more markets," Ebert said Friday on his Web site. "American television is swamped by mindless gossip about celebrities, and I'm happy this show will continue to tell viewers honestly if the critics think a new movie is worth seeing."

Ebert, who has not been able to speak since losing his voice to cancer, will not be one of those critics. This time, the thumbs up/thumbs down will be delivered by Associated Press film critic Christy Lemire and Elvis Mitchell, who hosts a pop-culture and film interview program on the NPR radio station KCRW.

The show will also feature contributions from bloggers Kim Morgan, who writes for MSN Movies, Huffington Post and her Web site; and Omar Moore, an attorney who publishes reviews and essays on his Web site

Lemire, Mitchell and Morgan were guest co-hosts after the death of Siskel in 1999.

Ebert will appear in every episode, "speaking" -- via a "computer voice" -- about classic, overlooked and new films, he said Friday on his Web site.

"At the Movies" began as the public broadcasting show with the clunky title "Opening Soon at a Theater Near You."

In '76, the name was changed, mercifully, to "Sneak Previews." The format abandoned PBS for the more lucrative playground of first-run syndication in 1982, distributed by Tribune Entertainment and with yet another name: "At the Movies." It left Tribune for the open arms of Disney's syndication operation after that.

Siskel co-hosted until his death and was replaced by Richard Roeper. Ebert stopped hosting due to cancer-treatment complications in 2006. Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz were named hosts in 2008, but Disney dumped them after just one season -- after nearly dumping the show altogether. Only then, Disney went and gave the gig to newspaper film critics Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott, and wound up canceling the show anyway in March of this year, and officially put it out of our misery in August.

'Nikita' draws blood

Bang! Bang! CW's new assassin-chick drama, "Nikita," shot down the network's return of "Vampire Diaries" Thursday night.

Airing in CW's very best time slot -- that would be 9 o'clock Thursday after its vampire soap -- the new action-drama attracted about 3.6 million people.

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