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Thumb Suckers

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 27, 2007 1:45PM

2007_08_rogerebert.jpgIt's been inspiring to see Roger Ebert slowly working his way back to writing movie reviews after his long illness. He's even gone so far as to give readers reviews of movies he missed while he was convalescing. Just don't expect to see the "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" signs in upcoming episodes "Ebert & Roeper at the Movies."

Disney-ABC Domestic Television, which produces the show, said that the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic has withdrawn permission to use the signature rating scale while the two sides negotiate a new contract. Ebert, however, says that the story isn't that cut and dry. He claims that while Disney made an opening offer that he "considered offensively low," he "made it clear the 'thumbs' could stay during good-faith negotiations" on a new contract. Ebert and the estate of the late Tribune film critic Gene Siskel own the trademark rights to the "thumbs" rating system.

It'll be interesting to see how these negotiations play out. While Disney would certainly relish having a fully recovered, eager-to-work Ebert back in the fold, he also hasn't been seen on his show in over a year. From Ebert's perspective we can also see why he might have found Disney's initial offer offensive, considering that he and Siskel set the standard for movie review shows with their chemistry and work on "... At the Movies," and "Sneak Previews" before that. What we think is cool is that Siskel and Ebert had the good business sense to trademark the "thumbs" gimmick. That's a potential gold mine in licensing fees. But then, considering that it was Ebert who suggested to Oprah Winfrey that she syndicate her show, we aren't surprised.

This is also as good a time as any to remind you that we'd love to see some additions to our "Get Well Roger" photo pool from you readers.