Sixteen months after he brought down the curtain on "Ebert & Roeper," veteran Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper is getting back in the movie-review business -- both online and on premium cable.
On Monday, Roeper unveiled a sharp new version of his website at richardroeper.com that will include on-camera reviews of new movies each week. His reviews should start appearing on the site early next month.
About a week after they premiere online, Roeper's reviews also will air on Starz, the Denver-based subscription movie channel owned by Liberty Entertainment and seen in about 18 million homes. The addition is part of Starz's strategy to add original programming to its strong lineup of feature films.
Roeper's deal with Starz reportedly includes a six-figure base salary plus bonuses based on page views generated by the website.
"I'm so excited about this new project," Roeper said Monday. "As much as I loved doing 'Ebert & Roeper,' this will have much more of an unfiltered, uncut, viral feel. As someone at Starz put it, they wanted 'Roeper uncut.' If a film is a piece of shit, I'll say it's a piece of shit. I love the idea of seeing the movie and turning around immediately and telling you what I think about it in a conversational manner. In some cases I'll be recording reviews right there on the street as I'm exiting the theater or the screening room."
In addition to reviewing new films, Roeper said he'll occasionally record videos about movie-related news and other pop culture events. "I'll also continue to post blog entries, photos, print reviews and other content on the site," he added.
Roeper, 50, walked away from "Ebert & Roeper" at the end of the 2008 season after failing to agree on a contract extension with Disney's ABC Media Productions. He'd been co-hosting the show since 2000 when he was chosen to succeed Ebert's original partner, Gene Siskel, who died in 1999. Ebert, 67, has been off the show because of health problems since 2006.
Points of contention for both Ebert and Roeper were changes in the program's format being planned by Disney. Seen by many as dumbing down the show, the changes proved to be as unpopular as Ebert and Roeper's replacements, Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz, who were dropped after just one season. Since September, "At the Movies" has been hosted by Michael Phillips of the Tribune and Tony Scott of the New York Times. Both Phillips and Scott had served as fill-ins for Ebert alongside Roeper.
In addition to the Starz deal, Roeper is close to finalizing an agreement with another cable channel to do regular weekly features about new DVDs. Also in the works is an iPhone application that will allow users to access his reviews for free on their phones.
And if all of that isn't enough, Roeper said he hasn't ruled out a return to syndication, which could put him in competition with Phillips and Scott, if Disney renews the current ratings-challenged incarnation of "At the Movies."
Now in his 22nd‚ year as a columnist at the Sun-Times, Roeper is awaiting the release of his eighth book this spring. Bet the House: How I Gambled over a Grand a Day for 30 Days on Sports, Poker, and Games of Chance will be published by Chicago Review Press.