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You've got to hand it to Roger Ebert. The critic who became famous for talking about and arguing over movies on television with his partner, Gene Siskel, has been forcibly removed from the airways thanks to a surgery for thyroid cancer that left him without a throat or a voice. But Ebert, who still writes for the Chicago Sun-Times and regularly on his blog, has kept his benchmark At The Movies program on the air even after it was cancelled in 2010. Hosted by Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Ebert Presents: At The Movies adopts the "thumbs up/thumbs down" rating system and balcony seating familiar from the original At The Movies, but with Ebert and his wife Chaz operating behind the scenes to keep the show going.

And yet now, even with the Eberts working their hardest, At The Movies may not make it. On his blog today Ebert wrote frankly that unless someone steps up with financing, the show will go off the air at the end of its current season, which wraps up in December. The Eberts started the show with $25,000 from the Kanbar Charitable Trust and air it on public television, where shows are expected to be funded by their producers-- viewer donations keep the public TV stations themselves running. Despite what Ebert describes as massive success for At The Movies-- he says it's one of the top shows on public television-- no one else has stepped up to finance the show, and the Eberts are no longer able to pay for it themselves out of pocket. You can hardly blame them-- a nationally syndicated TV show is the kind of thing you expect a corporation or network to pay for, not a married couple likely shouldering massive medical bills as it is.

So to all the charitable trusts, companies, individual billionaires, whatever reading this-- step up! Do your part to maintain an American cultural institution! Yes, the time has likely passed to start airing a movie review show on television, and the Internet may eventually become a better home for this particular institution, which ought to be around as long as movies last. But for now, there are still a lot of people watching television, and a lot of people who really need the voices of Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky-- guided by Ebert-- to help them sort quality movies from the noise of marketing, hype and other nonsense out there. OUr friends at Film School Rejects are suggesting a Kickstarter campaign to allow individual fans to chip in their $10 or $100 and save the show. That might work too-- but for a show this big, they probably also need the funding of a big gun. Come on, corporate America-- you've done so many awful things lately, and now here's one way to put a very small amount of money into something very good.
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