Roger Ebert, Richard Roeper Leaving 'At The Movies'

Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert says he’s cutting ties with the television show that he and the late Gene Siskel made famous.

In an e-mail to The Associated Press on Monday, Ebert said Disney-ABC Domestic Television had decided to take the show “in a new direction” and he won’t be associated with it.

His announcement came a day after Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper said he was leaving the nationally syndicated “At the Movies With Ebert & Roeper.”

Roeper said in a statement Sunday that he had failed to agree on a contract extension with Disney-ABC Domestic Television so his last appearance on the show will air the weekend of Aug. 16-17.

“Several months ago, Disney offered to extend my contract, which expires at the conclusion of the 2007-08 season,” Roeper said. “I opted to wait. Much transpired after that behind the scenes, but an agreement was never reached, and we are all moving on.”

A message seeking comment was left for a spokeswoman for Disney-ABC Domestic Television early Monday.

Roeper said he intends to “proceed elsewhere … as the co-host of a movie review show that honors the standards established by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert more than 30 years ago.”

“I will be free to share the details on that program in the near future,” he said.

He also said he wishes Disney “the best of luck with their new show, whatever form it may take.”

Roeper joined Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert on the show in 2000, after Ebert’s original co-host, Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel, died of a brain tumor in 1999.

Siskel and Ebert had begun reviewing movies on television together in 1975 on Chicago public broadcasting’s WTTW, which eventually took their program national. The pair jumped to commercial television through the Tribune Co.‘s TV syndication wing in 1982, switching to Disney in 1986.

Roeper was chosen from among a large group of contenders to be the permanent replacement for Siskel after his death.

Ebert has been sidelined the last two years because of health issues that have robbed him of his voice.

“Over the last two seasons, as Roger has bravely coped with his medical issues, I’ve continued the show with a number of guest co-hosts,” Roeper said. “It’s never been the same without Roger, but I’m proud of the work we’ve done and I’m grateful to all the co-hosts who stepped in — and to the viewers that stayed loyal to the show.”

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