Ebert disputes Disney

From the Associated Press

Roger Ebert said he never gave a “thumbs down” to the use of thumbs in the film reviews for “At the Movies With Ebert & Roeper” during contract negotiations.

In a statement released Friday, the TV show’s distributor, Disney-ABC Domestic Television, said Ebert had “exercised his right to withhold use of the ‘thumbs’ until a new contract is signed.” Ebert is a copyright holder on the signature “thumbs up, thumbs down” judgment that’s part of each film review.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic responded in a statement Saturday on his website, saying he “had made it clear the Thumbs could remain during good-faith negotiations,” contrary to Disney’s press release.


“They made a first offer . . . which I considered offensively low,” he wrote. “I responded with a counteroffer. They did not reply to this and . . . ordered the Thumbs removed from the show. This is not something I expected after an association of over 22 years.”

Health problems have kept Ebert from appearing on the show for more than a year, with guest hosts filling in. In the new season that started this weekend, Richard Roeper was to be joined by movie critic Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Observer.

Two episodes have been taped without the catchy thumb assessment, a staple of movie marketing and, in turn, a big part of the show’s influence.

Ebert, 65, underwent a series of cancer surgeries, most recently in June 2006 when he had a growth on his salivary gland and part of his jaw removed. Two weeks later, he had surgery after a blood vessel burst near the site of the operation. A tracheostomy, which opens an airway through an incision in the windpipe, left him unable to speak, a condition he has said requires further surgery. But he is cancer-free, he said earlier this month.