Roger Ebert scales back to review "only the movies I want to" due to cancer

The Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic announced a "leave of presence" on Tuesday night

Published April 3, 2013 1:02PM (EDT)

Preeminent film critic Roger Ebert announced late last night that he is cutting back from his work due to his ongoing struggle with cancer.

Ebert, the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize, has been penning reviews for 46 years to the day, and writes over 200 reviews a year. Last year, Ebert wrote a career-high of 306.

Now, the prolific reviewer is taking what he refers to as a "leave of presence":

"What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me. What's more, I'll be able at last to do what I've always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review."

Though narrowing his writing focus, Ebert will expand his reach in other ways, including starting a Kickstarter campaign to bring back his PBS program, "At the Movies," attempting to turn a video game or app into a movie, collaborating with Martin Scorsese over an Ebert biopic and managing the relaunch of his Web site,

Ebert explains that the reason for scaling back is his ailing health, which he plans to write about as well:

"Of course, there will be some changes. The immediate reason for my "leave of presence" is my health. The 'painful fracture' that made it difficult for me to walk has recently been revealed to be a cancer. It is being treated with radiation, which has made it impossible for me to attend as many movies as I used to. I have been watching more of them on screener copies that the studios have been kind enough to send to me. My friend and colleague Richard Roeper and other critics have stepped up and kept the newspaper and website current with reviews of all the major releases. So we have and will continue to go on.

At this point in my life, in addition to writing about movies, I may write about what it's like to cope with health challenges and the limitations they can force upon you. It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital. So on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness."

Read Ebert's letter in the Chicago Sun-Times in full.

By Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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