Roger Ebert, the legendary film critic whose involvement in television began in 1975 with his and Gene Siskel’s “Sneak Previews,” will be forced to shutter “Ebert Presents: At The Movies” unless he can find financial backing.
“At The Movies” airs across the U.S. through American Public Televison. Ebert revealed the funding problems in a post on his blog:
Since we went on the air in January 2011, “Ebert Presents” has been almost entirely funded by Chaz and me, plus $25,000 in generous backing from the Kanbar Charitable Trust. … We can’t afford to support the show any longer.
“At The Movies” does not actually feature Ebert on screen (though it does feature his reviews, read by others); due to thyroid cancer, Ebert lost his jawbone — and his ability to speak — in the summer of 2006. His struggles, and subsequent career revival, were documented in a moving 2010 Esquire profile by Chris Jones.
Since recovering from illness, the only film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism has continued reviewing movies for the Chicago Sun-Times and elsewhere.
Making a case for “At The Movies,” Ebert praised the two current hosts, Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, and touted its 90% national coverage and presence in all of the top 50 markets. He wrote:
I believe a program like this is needed on television. On “Ebert Presents,” a new Johnny Depp movie can get two thumbs down (or up, or a split decision) from two intelligent people who will tell you why they voted that way, and challenge one another. Movie coverage on TV is otherwise so intensely driven by marketing that some programs actually cover the marketing itself.
Unless supporters are found soon, Ebert will tell American Public Television at the end of the month that the show can no longer go on.
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