Don DuPree, a 23-year veteran of Chicago television, announced his resignation Tuesday as assistant news director at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 to reunite with Roger Ebert on his new movie-review show.
DuPree has been hired as director of “Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies,” which is expected to debut in January on public television stations nationwide. Ebert and his wife, Chaz, are producing the show with WTTW National Productions. It will originate from WTTW-Channel 11, where Ebert and the late Gene Siskel first teamed up in 1975.
In the new show, Ebert, who is unable to speak because of health problems, plans to use a computer-generated voice to appear in a weekly segment called “Roger’s Office.” Critics Christy Lemire of The Associated Press and Elvis Mitchell of National Public Radio will serve as co-hosts, with contributions from film bloggers Kim Morgan and Omar Moore.
DuPree had spent more than 15 years with Ebert as both director and executive producer of various incarnations of the syndicated movie-review show, first with Siskel and later with Richard Roeper. Since July 2009, DuPree has been assistant news director at Channel 2, where he oversaw the ill-fated “Monsters and Money in the Morning,” which was canceled after seven months last August. Before joining “Siskel & Ebert” in 1993, he had been an executive at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 for five years.
“I can’t tell you how good it feels to have [Don] on board for the new program,” Ebert wrote in a message from Hawaii, where he was attending a film festival and receiving an award Tuesday. “He’ll supply an experienced hand at the rudder.”
Another veteran of “Ebert & Roeper,” former executive producer David Plummer, has signed on as a consultant to the new show. Serving as associate producer will be Chaz’s daughter, Sonia Evans, who was a production associate at ABC Studios in Burbank, Calif., and vice president of development at Spicerack Productions, a children’s programming development and production company. “We have a lot of valuable experience onboard,” Ebert said.
In Chicago, the show will debut on Channel 11 on Friday, Jan. 21, 2011, at 8:30 p.m. The agreement to produce “Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies” from the original home of “Coming Soon to a Theater Near You” and “Sneak Previews” is a source of particular satisfaction to Ebert, who said:
“As for returning to WTTW, that just plain feels good. We started out there, we went national there, and now the circle is completed. These days weekly syndicated shows face enormous problems in clearing good, consistent time slots. Viewers complained ‘At the Movies’ was on after midnight or was pre-empted by infomercials. Public television will allow us to occupy consistent and much improved time slots, and that should increase our viewership. Initial response from more than 300 public stations indicate we will be on most of them. WTTW and public TV are the right place for the show. Plus, with no ads, we gain six minutes of running time. Win – win.”