Richard Roeper, Roger Ebert

AP Photo

Roger Ebert is exiting his balcony seat and taking his thumbs with him.

Hours after onscreen sparring partner Richard Roeper announced he was unable to reach a contract extension to keep him on At the Movies With Ebert and Roeper, Ebert himself dropped the bombshell: He was leaving the seminal movie review show he launched in 1975 with the late Gene Siskel.

"After 33 years on the air, 23 of them with Disney, the studio has decided to take the program named Siskel & Ebert and then Ebert & Roeper in a new direction. I will no longer be associated with it," he writes on his website.

"The show was a wonderful experience. It was a great loss to me when surgery in July 2006 made it impossible for me to appear on the air any longer," he continues in a nod to his ongoing battle with thyroid cancer, adding that "I remained active behind the scenes."

Ebert, 66, suggests that he was upset by Disney's attempt to tweak the format.

"Gene and I felt the formula was simplicity itself: Two film critics, sitting across the aisle from each other in a movie balcony, debating the new films of the week," Ebert writes. "We developed an entirely new concept for TV.

"We made television history, and established the trademarked catchphrase 'Two thumbs up.' "

That catchphrase is owned by Ebert and Siskel's widow, Marlene Iglitzen, and will not be part of Disney's retooled show. Siskel died in 1999 at age 53, following surgery to remove a brain tumor.

But, vows Ebert, intimating a potential new TV project, "the thumbs will return."

"We are discussing possibilities, and plan to continue the show's tradition."

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