Another relic of the movie business of old is on its way out the door. Moviefone, the once-popular service that helped people figure out showtimes in their area, is now bankrupt and worth a tiny fraction of what it was at the height of its powers. The service's parent company, Helios and Matheson, the same company behind MoviePass, has declared bankruptcy and has left the future of Moviefone in doubt.
According to a new report, Moviefone's total value is now estimated to be $4,379,504. That represents a mere 1.1% of the massive $388 million stock deal AOL made for Moviefone in 1999, which happened just before the infamous dot-com bubble burst. Helios and Matheson had purchased the company in April 2018 from Verizon for $1 million and stock, which is now worth next to nothing. Most interestingly, it was revealed that nearly all of the company's staff was laid off, save for one single employee, who has been kept aboard to keep the lights on until the asset is sold off.
This mirrors a Seinfeld episode, in which, Kramer pretended to be a Moviefone operator. Several made the joke online after the news broke, suggesting Kramer is now the lone employee. Rather, it is general manager Matt Atchity. But the Seinfeld episode does speak to the service's popularity during the 90s and early 2000s. Before the internet made it easy to find local showtimes, Moviefone's hotline, operated by Mr. Moviefone, could guide viewers to the right place at the right time.
Helios and Matheson had big plans for Moviefone, just as they did for MoviePass. The idea was to turn MovieFone into a competitor of sorts to Rotten Tomatoes, but for MoviePass users. But the company's goals were lofty and, ultimately, unattainable. Just as they killed MoviePass, it seems they may have taken the last gasps of air out of Moviefone as well. Following the acquisition last year, MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe had this to say.
"Our subscribers are telling us they want to be able to get recommendations or read reviews by MoviePass subscribers. They don't want to go to other sites, they want to have it all in one place. [Moviefone] gives us kind of a running start at building content for our subscribers... Today, many people go to Rotten Tomatoes. And we find our subscribers have a slightly different and, in fact, a more positive rating of movies. We want to be able to do our own presentation for our subscribers from fellow MoviePass subscribers that gives them more reflection of people like them, who love movies."
Moviefone was founded in 1989 and, at its peak, had numbers in 67 local area codes across the country, in addition to its famous nationwide, toll-free number. AOL shut down the hotline in 2014 with the hope of turning the brand into a broad entertainment site, but that failed to catch fire. As for the future? That will depend on whether or not someone steps in to buy what's left of the company and can find a way to make it valuable once again. This news comes to us via Variety.