'At The Movies'; Ben Bradley; Chicago/Midwest Emmy Awards

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Posted by Bud on October 12, 2009 at 11:36:45:

Preview of 'At the Movies' ratings: little change

MEDIA | New critics may not boost numbers much from last year's lightweight duo

October 9, 2009

LEWIS LAZARE | Chicago Sun-Times

Will it be thumbs up or thumbs-down for "At the Movies" this season? Put another way, is the mass television audience ready to embrace a serious movie review show with serious critics, which -- for marketing purposes -- is how ABC Media Productions is positioning "At the Movies" this year?

It's too early in the new season to answer that question definitively. But a month of ratings for the show suggest the newly retooled "At the Movies" with Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips and New York Times critic A.O. Scott may be hard-pressed to improve on last season's considerably more lightweight and critically lambasted version starring Ben Mankiewicz and Ben Lyons.

The two Bens lasted only one season, in truth, because they didn't move the ratings needle in the right direction. "We tried something different last season, but decided to go back to doing the show with two newspaper critics," explained an "At the Movies" spokeswoman. She also noted that "At the Movies" ratings have generally been falling since Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert exited the show in 2006 -- a 30 percent falloff over the three years.

Some TV critics have questioned whether the chemistry between Phillips and Scott -- both of whom have low-key personalities -- is potent enough to make this new version of "At the Movies" click with viewers over the long haul.

The early ratings for the new season suggest Phillips and Scott do have a ways to go to get back to the ratings highs of the Ebert-Richard Roeper era. The latest national Nielsen rating for "At the Movies" for the weekend of Sept. 26 was a 1.1, compared to a 1.3 last year. Locally, the latest version of "At the Movies" has fluctuated between a 1.4 and 2.0 rating on ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 -- not substantially better or worse than last year's numbers. But a WLS spokeswoman said it will be hard to get an accurate read on the show's popularity here in Chicago until the Saturday night football telecasts end, and "At the Movies" slips into a more regular time slot.

USOC out of favor

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge's words hit WLS-Channel 7 reporter Ben Bradley just the way they did us. "I didn't think I had heard right," said Bradley. He talked to us Thursday about that almost surreal moment when Rogge announced to the world that Chicago would not participate in the next round of voting to determine which of four cities would host the 2016 Olympic Games. In that instant -- in the first round of IOC voting no less -- Chicago's hopes were dashed. Three weeks ago, when we asked reporters from three Chicago television stations how they thought the IOC vote would play out, Bradley predicted that Chicago could get "bounced" in the first round of IOC voting.

After covering the vote in Copenhagen, Bradley said he discovered many IOC members simply don't like the United States Olympic Committee, a factor the WLS reporter believes weighed heavily in Chicago's shocking first-round bounce. One other interesting note: Bradley said that while President Obama was en route to Copenhagen, ABC News called to tell him Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali might be on Air Force One with the president. Bradley couldn't confirm it and never reported the rumor, which is all it turned out to be.

Local Emmys tighten belt

Tight budgets have forced a change in date and venue for the 51st annual Chicago/Midwest Emmy Awards, honoring the best in local television from Chicago and other Midwest markets. Originally slated for Nov. 14 at the Hyatt McCormick Place, the show now is slated for Nov. 7 at the more intimate (and less costly to book) Park West, where local TV notables will feast on a dinner buffet and drink up from a cash bar. Chicagoan and former "Saturday Night Live" performer Tim Kazurinsky is set to host the awards show.

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