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.”
Ebert said he and Siskel’s widow, Marlene Iglitzen, will retain rights to the trademarked catch-phrase “two thumbs up.”
Besides his role as a film critic for E!, Lyons conducts red-carpet interviews with celebrities.
In addition to appearing on Turner Classic Movies, Mankiewicz hosts a live radio talk show called “The Young Turks” on the liberal broadcast network Air America Radio.
Disney spokeswoman Bridget Osterhaus insisted “At the Movies” would “stay true to the movie review format.”
“It’s not an entertainment news magazine that reports on celebrities or anything like that,” she added.
Ebert, arguably the nation’s best-known movie critic, was sidelined as host of the show after undergoing surgery in 2006 that cost him his voice.
Roeper, 48, has anchored the show with a variety guest-hosts since then. He said on Sunday that his last appearance on the program would be on August 17 and that he intended to co-host another film review show that “honors the standards established by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert more than 30 years ago.”
Editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Beech