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Critical decision near for Eberts’ movie show

Updated: April 19, 2011 5:13AM

Former New York Times movie critic Elvis Mitchell has been dropped as a critic on the new “Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies,” set to debut Jan. 21. The program will be shown on more than 190 public television stations and on the Armed Forces Network, according to Ebert.

Armed Forces Network reaches an audience of nearly 1 million members of the military and their families in scores of countries.

When producers Roger Ebert and wife Chaz Ebert announced the new program in September, Mitchell was paired with Associated Press movie critic Christy Lemire, who is still with the movie review show. But since that announcement, there had been growing concern about whether Mitchell was the right person for the job. One source who had seen the pilot shot earlier this year with Lemire and Mitchell said it showed little on-air chemistry between the two.

The Eberts are now under pressure to find the right person by Jan. 1 for the show to debut on schedule. One dark horse candidate believed to be under consideration is a young male in his mid-20s with little or no experience as a movie critic or as a TV talent. Another possible option, sources said, would involve a pairing of Lemire with another critic described as a female version of tart-tongued former “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell.

Ultimately, the Eberts will have the final say on the second of the two sparring critics on their new movie review show review. “This will be an enormous decision with enormous consequences,” said one source.

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