While Siskel and Ebert are widely considered the most influential film critics in this country, the duo claims that they are treated like all the other film critics.
Siskel could not be reached for comment, but according to Ebert, they have never been given preferential treatment at screenings, like primo seats or lavish dinners. Ebert also volunteers, “I have never ridden in a limo to a screening. I always drive myself.”
The powerhouse scribes see most movies in a Chicago screening room with all the other Windy City critics. These screenings are held exclusively for film reviewers, so reserved seating is unnecessary.
A studio will sometimes rush an early print to Chicago to be sure that the film is reviewed on “The Siskel and Ebert Show,” especially if a picture is being released on the coasts before it hits the Midwest.
Ebert is now in Cannes, and he was able to set up some special screenings because he and Siskel had to tape two shows on May 16, but he says beyond the TV show, life is relatively unglamorous.
Two years ago at the Toronto film festival, a Variety editor witnessed Ebert strolling into the only reserved seat in the house for an overbooked press screening of “A Bronx Tale.”
“I was interviewing Chazz Palminteri later that day,” explains Ebert, who conducts numerous star interviews, “and the publicist wanted to be sure that I saw the film. But I will not say I like the film just to get access to the star.”
When Ebert saw “Die Hard With a Vengeance” in Chicago on May 15 he attended a screening of about 1,000 people, but sat in one of the 40 reserved seats. “They reserved seats for all the press,” he says.