AOL Officially Hanging Up Moviefone
AOL announced that it is shutting down the 777-FILM number and the Moviefone service, prompting many people to wonder aloud, Moviefone was still around?
Moviefone was made famous in the early '90s as a way for people to get movie showtimes over the phone, and was later cemented as a pop culture landmark as the focus of a classic 'Seinfeld' episode (wherein Kramer's phone number is one digit away from the Moviefone number, so he begins to adopt the role of Mr. Moviefone with hilarious results), but as of today, Moviefone is no more.
AOL purchased Moviefone for almost $400 million in 1999, and while the business saw some success in the 2000s, it mostly struggled to find a foothold in the digital age, being left behind by Fandango and MovieTickets.com. (At its peak, Moviefone was getting over 3 million calls a week. While exact numbers weren't released, that number now is reportedly down to the low thousands.) Russ Leatherman, the iconic voice of the Moviefone service left the company, left the service last year while AOL announced a "major reimagining" of the Moviefone brand in the digital space.
Now, instead of hearing Mr. Moviefone's memorable, "HELLO! And welcome to Moviefone!" callers were greeted with a more somber announcement stating, in part, "To buy tickets and for all of your showtime information please download the free Moviefone app on your smartphone or iPad."
But, that Moviefone app has not been updated in over four months and there's no clear date on when we'll see this "reimagining" of the brand. (A rep for AOL declined to comment to The New York Times).
So, almost 25 years later, is there still room for Moviefone in the marketplace? Back in 2012, Moviefone actually partnered with Fandango, to provide all the ticketing for AOLreaders. Without ticketing and online showtimes ubiquitous, what service does Moviefone plan to provide that moviegoers can't get at other locations, where there is likely much higher brand loyalty and awareness. After all, the Generation X-ers may have a fondness for the old Moviefone, but do Millennials even really know what it is? Other than a relic?
While it's not surprising to see some nostalgia for an old '90s movie brand (not unlike Blockbuster), it's also not surprising the Moviefone brand failed as the culture and technology evolved. With Moviefone now disconnected, maybe it's time to leave it that way?