After 35 years, Disney-ABC is cancelling “At the Movies,” the iconic movie review round-up show where Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert made their names as America’s most prominent During the weekend of Aug. 14, the final show featuring current reviewers Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune and A.O. Scott of the New York Times will air.
Ebert seems to take the news in stride in a blog post: “Blame the fact that cable TV and the internet have fragmented the audience so much that stations are losing market share no matter what they do. Blame the economy, because many stations would rather sell a crappy half-hour infomercial than program a show they respect.”
Boy, is he right.
cancelling a movie review show makes “economic sense” just like it made “economic sense” for Variety to cut one of its most respected reviewers. Advertisers are pulling out because viewers (or subscribers) aren’t tuning in. People simply don’t care about star movie reviewers as much as they used to — they would rather hear from friends or aggregated opinions on blogs.
But here’s some good news: Ebert plans to resurrect the show. He wouldn’t give too many other details on “Roger Ebert presents At the Movies,” but adds he is “deeply involved in” talks and plans to bring back the concise “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” way of reviewing movies.
Finally, a reviewer who can give us a definitive answer about whether or not a movie is worth seeing.
Ebert thinks the show will be a success, thanks to the “explosion” of DVD, Netflix, Red Box and VOD services. “Virtually all movies are easily available to virtually all North American moviegoers,” he writes. “This has created a huge potential audience. When people tell me how many titles they have in their Netflix queues, I reflect that until recent years they’d be telling me how many movies never even played in their town.”
Ebert’s profile has shot up thanks to a recent Esquire profile and an appearance on Oprah. Many of his new (and old) fans will likely tune in, if only to see how America’s most famous movie reviewer who can’t speak will be able to host a TV show.
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