One day after news came that Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper were exiting the long-running movie review program “At the Movies,” the production company responsible for the show wasted no time in announcing its plans to continue the series. Taking on co-hosting duties are Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz.
The move illustrates a not so secret Hollywood practice: putting in place a contingency plan in case contract negotiations and other circumstances do not favor the producer. In this instance, Ebert’s health has prevented his return to the series and media reports say Roeper could not come to financial terms with Disney ABC-Domestic Television, which distributes the program.
Showing reverence and respect for Ebert and Roeper — and hopeful enthusiasm for Lyons and Mankiewicz-- the following release was sent to press outlets today:
Television’s most popular and respected movie review program, “At The Movies,” today announced that two new charismatic co-hosts, Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz, will co-host the next generation of the series when its new season begins the weekend of Sept. 6, 2008. Both of these critics will bring their unique personalities and extensive qualifications to the series, and the show will also be adding several new exciting segments.
This follows the announcement that famed Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert and his co-host Richard Roeper have bid farewell to the weekly television series.
A native New Yorker and best known as E! Entertainment’s resident film expert, Ben Lyons interviews actors and reports from film festivals around the globe. His versatility as a host and critic finds him on the red carpet and reviewing films for “E! News,“ “The Daily Ten,” as well as his featured blog and original broadband series, “The Lyons Den,” on E! Online. Lyons has previously been featured on “Good Morning America,” MTV’s “Your Movie Show,” “MSNBC at the Movies” and “Access Hollywood,” and has a passion for music having worked as a segment producer on the nationally syndicated “Hip-Hop Nation.”
Ben Mankiewicz has been a popular host for Turner Classic Movies for five years. He was also the host of “The Young Turks” on Sirius Satellite Radio, a live, daily alternative talk show discussing politics, film, pop culture, sports, and media. Prior to his work on Turner Classic Movies, Mankiewicz was a reporter and anchor for WCSC-TV in Charleston, South Carolina and he also served as the anchor of “The Times,” a daily news magazine at WAMI-TV Miami.
“I am incredibly excited to be involved with such a prestigious show,” said co-host Ben Lyons. “Reviewing films for a living is a thrill, and now that I will be a critic for ‘At the
Movies,’ it is an honor and huge responsibility that I look forward to.”
“I am thrilled and honored beyond words to be joining the series,” added co-host Ben Mankiewicz. “As a movie fanatic, this is my dream job. Without question, I certainly have very big shoes to fill.”
In addition to the new co-hosts, “At the Movies” will also introduce new segments, a new set, new music and new graphics with the September premiere. The show will continue its signature “cross-talk” reviews, where the co-hosts debate the latest motion picture and DVD releases, and add “Critics Round-Up,” which features the co-hosts in lively discussions with other well-respected critics via satellite from cities across the country.
Also, in the “3 to See” segment, the co-hosts recommend their top three “must see” films in theatres now, to give viewers a chance to make quick decisions on what to see that weekend.
In discussing the future of the series, Brian Frons, president, Daytime, Disney-ABC Television Group, who oversees Buena Vista Productions, stated, “Over the years, ‘At the Movies’ has become synonymous with fun, compelling movie reviews. With the addition of Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz as our talented, charismatic new co-hosts, and exciting new segments planned, we’re confident that audiences will be enjoying ‘At the Movies’ for many years to come.”
Both Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz grew up immersed in the movie business; one in a family of film critics and one in a family of filmmakers. Lyons comes from a very distinguished family of journalists and film critics, including his father, film critic Jeffrey Lyons, and grandfather, renowned New York Post columnist Leonard Lyons. Mankiewicz comes from a legendary filmmaking family. Mankiewicz’s grandfather, Herman Mankiewicz, won an Oscar for writing the screenplay for “Citizen Kane.”
His great uncle, Joseph Mankiewicz, won four Oscars for writing and directing “All About Eve and “A Letter to Three Wives.” His cousin, Tom Mankiewicz, wrote several classic James Bond movies including “The Man with the Golden Gun,” “Live and Let Die,” and “Diamonds Are Forever.” He also wrote “Superman” and “Superman II.”
The show’s comprehensive Web site, AtTheMoviesTV.com, is the only online destination on the internet to feature a 20-year video archive of every movie review in the show’s history, and will offer full-length reviews for all the movies and DVDs reviewed each week by Lyons and Mankiewicz. In addition, the new “Critics Round-Up” will be incorporated into the site, along with a number of new online-exclusive features in coming months.
Buena Vista Productions has also named David Plummer as the new executive producer of “At the Movies.” Plummer will be upped from his current position as supervising producer on “At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper.”
Television pioneers Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel first paired up in 1975 at WTTW in Chicago when they hosted the local movie review show, “Sneak Previews.” In 1978, the show moved to PBS and was syndicated shortly thereafter by Tribune Syndication and was renamed “At the Movies.” In 1986, Disney-ABC Domestic Television (then known as Buena Vista Television) acquired the show, calling it “Siskel & Ebert & the Movies.”
Upon Gene Siskel’s passing in 1999, the show retained the “Siskel & Ebert” title until the following fall when it became “Roger Ebert & the Movies.” In July 2000, film critic Richard Roeper was named Ebert’s new co-host and the show was retitled, “Ebert & Roeper and the Movies.” The show was renamed “Ebert & Roeper” in 2001 and subsequently was modified to “At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper” last year. Ebert celebrated his 30th anniversary as a television film critic in 2005.
“It has been a remarkable 22 years working with our good friend Roger Ebert,” commented Janice Marinelli, president, Disney-ABC Domestic Television. “Roger is an exceedingly gifted critic and journalist who has made an indelible mark on the film industry. It has been our privilege to work alongside Roger and we are proud to have been his television partner for these many years. He is an extraordinary man of uncompromising strength and determination.”
She continued, “Richard’s talent, enthusiasm and insights have been an integral part of the show for the past eight seasons. We thank him for his invaluable contributions and we are especially grateful to him for hosting the show so skillfully these past two years during Roger’s absence. We wish them both the very best.”
“At the Movies” will debut its 23rd season in national syndication the weekend of Sept. 6, 2008. Buena Vista Production oversees production of the series, which is distributed by Disney-ABC Domestic Television. The series is produced at WLS-TV in Chicago. Check local listings for time and channel at www.AtTheMoviesTV.com.