The balcony may not be closed after all; it just might be undergoing repairs. Within hours of Disney announcing the demise of the long-time syndicated movie review show At the Movies, original co-host and co-inventor of the Thumbs Roger Ebert announced on his blog his plans for a new show that would be decidedly more hip to the times. Ebert sees a whole business model built on new media, new cinema, and the dirty little secret the public keeps: people still care about good movies.
When the New York Times put an interactive Netflix map online, allowing me to search by zip code and see what my neighbors were renting, the top title was "Milk," followed by such as "The Wrestler," "Slumdog Millionaire," "Doubt" and "Rachel Getting Married." Think about that. Good movies. "Transformers 2" was nowhere to be seen. ("Milk," in case you're wondering, was first or second in most Chicago zip codes, not just mine.) Those are the kinds of people who might want to watch a movie review program. Our show will try to reach people who think before they watch a movie, and value their time, and their minds. Does that sound like a pitch? Probably. I think it's also a business plan.
Ebert, who can’t provide specifics about the talks he and his wife and producing partner Chaz are involved in with companies, did reveal a familiar, proposed title for the show: Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies. While recent Los Angeles auditions have resulted in confirmed potential hosts, Ebert also suggests he would like to appear on the show from time to time to provide voice-over narration through the use of his new computerized voice. He sees the show as a chance to explore not just the big new releases but also the independents, foreign films, and documentaries the other entertainment outlets aren’t talking about. He proposes coverage of film festivals, segments on directors, classics, and “Great Movies” people should see, as well as recommendations for what’s available for instant streaming on different platforms. And there would be Thumbs.
With the near-universal availability of virtually all films to North Americans thanks to DVDs, Netflix, Red Box, and On Demand video, Ebert is optimistic that there is an audience for a revamped show looking to discuss cinema culture, and looks to the cancellation of At the Movies as an open door, rather than a closed one.