July 21, 2008 / 8:10 PM / 9 years ago

Film critics Ebert, Roeper leaving their TV show

<p>Movie critic Roger Ebert gives the thumbs-up as he arrives at a ceremony to receive his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood in this June 23, 2005 file photo. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Influential film critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper are departing the movie-review show that bears their names, the two announced separately, leaving the program’s future unclear.

Ebert, 66, who has been sidelined as co-host of “At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper” since 2006 due to health problems, said in a statement posted on Monday on the Web site of the Chicago Sun-Times that he was ending his relationship with the show.

He had no explanation for his departure, but said producers had decided to “take the program in a new direction.” Ebert, arguably America’s best-known film critic, had remained active behind the scenes despite losing his voice to cancer.

His announcement came a day after Roeper, 48, said his last appearance on the show would be an episode airing August 17. Both Ebert and Roeper are columnists for the Sun-Times.

The show’s production company, Disney-ABC Domestic Television, had no immediate comment on the future of the long-running program, which Ebert launched 33 years ago with late Chicago Tribune critic Gene Siskel.

Ebert said he and Siskel’s widow, Marlene Iglitzen, will retain the show’s trademarked catch-phrase “two thumbs up” for some future use.

“After 33 years on the air, 23 of them with Disney, the studio has decided to take the program named ‘Siskel & Ebert’ and then ‘Ebert & Roeper’ in a new direction. I will no longer be associated with it,” Ebert’s statement said.

Roeper joined the show eight years ago, after Siskel died of complications from a surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Roeper said in his statement that Disney had offered to extend his contract several months ago, but ultimately he and the company did not come to terms.

“Much transpired after that behind the scenes, but an agreement was never reached, and we are all moving on,” Roeper said.

Roeper said he intends to “proceed elsewhere” and co-host another film 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.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Osterman)

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