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Thumbs Down for ‘At the Movies’

The long-running syndicated TV critics series will conclude its run in August

The venerable craft of film criticism suffered another blow Wednesday, when Disney-ABC Domestic TV announced that “At the Movies” will end its run in August, after 24 seasons in syndication.

The show goes all the way back to 1975, when two unknown Chicago film critics, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, started hosting a local TV show called “Sneak Previews.”

With its trademark thumbs-up, thumbs-down style, and the often heated bantering of the two hosts, the show became a hit, both with audiences and critics.

(Also read Josef Adalian’s commentary: "Shame on the Local Stations That Killed ‘At the Movies.’")

Syndicated by Disney since 1986, it remained top-rated and Emmy nominated – seven times in the informational series category – until the death of Siskel in 1999.

After a series of on-air tryouts, Chicago Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper got a seat on the show in 2000, and the pair continued until Ebert was diagnosed iwth throat cancer in 2006.

Post-Ebert, Disney has tried to fill the two slots with a number of new critics – most recently Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott – but no one has been able to match the original chemistry.

“This was a very difficult decision, especially considering the program’s rich history and iconic status within the entertainment industry,” a Disney-ABC statement read, “but from a business perspective it became clear this weekly, half-hour broadcast syndication series was no longer sustainable.”

For his part, the oft-tweeting Ebert weighed in through social media late Wednesday: “RIP, ‘At the Movies.’ Memories,” he wrote.