Disney names new hosts to replace Ebert and Roeper

Tue Jul 22, 2008 5:01pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A day after influential critic Roger Ebert quit the film-review show he co-created three decades ago, the Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday named two new hosts and unveiled a new format for the nationally syndicated program.

Ben Lyons, a film critic from cable channel E! Entertainment Television, and Ben Mankiewicz, a moderator on cable network Turner Classic Movies, will take over as hosts of Ebert's old show when it is relaunched on September 6, said Disney's Buena Vista Productions studio.

The show will be renamed "At the Movies," dropping the surnames of Ebert and Richard Roeper, the program's last permanent co-host, from the title.

Ebert and Roeper, both columnists for the Chicago Sun-Times, announced separately this week that they were leaving the program -- with Ebert, 66, saying on Monday the show was headed in "a new direction."

Disney said "At the Movies" will continue to feature back-and-forth commentary between the two hosts, but the set, music and graphics will all be changed.

In one new segment, Lyons, 26, and Mankiewicz, 41, will be joined by other critics via satellite. The pair also will give their picks for three favorite films in theaters each weekend.

"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," Disney-ABC Television Group executive Brian Frons said in a statement.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Ebert, who created the show in 1975 with the late film critic Gene Siskel, said by e-mail that the new format "sounds like a pilot for a new entertainment show, not a continuation of the traditional format."   Continued...

<p>Film experts Ben Lyons (L) and Ben Mankiewicz are shown in this combination photo of publicity images released to Reuters July 22, 2008. The Walt Disney Company named the two men on Tuesday the new hosts to replace Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper on the popular movie-review show "At the Movies," in the wake of the influential critics' departure from the program. REUTERS/The Walt Disney Company/Handout</p>