Moviefone, the iconic voice of the now-discontinued telephone service marketing theatrical releases and ticket sales, has been sold for $1 million in bankruptcy proceedings involving Helios and Matheson Analytics, which also owned the defunct MoviePass subscription ticket service.
Founded in 1989, Moviefone offered callers movie, ticket and screening information nationwide. The service was acquired for $388 million in 1999 by AOL, which in 2017 merged with Yahoo to become Oath. Helios and Matheson bought the brand in 2018 for $8 million from Oath in a largely stock-based transaction. (Oath in 2019 was renamed Verizon Media.)
Former Helios and Matheson Analytics CEO Ted Farnsworth just doesn’t know when to quit.
A day after stepping down as CEO of the parent to shuttered MoviePass ticket subscription service and related businesses (MoviePass Films, Moviefone), Farnsworth reportedly is cobbling together a group of investors to buy select MoviePass assets.
According to The Wall Street Journal, which cited HMNY internal documents, including Farnsworth’s resignation letter, the executive eyes continuing MoviePass Films, which generated several original releases starring Bruce Willis.
Whether Farnsworth — a longtime MoviePass cheerleader along with the service’s CEO Mitch Lowe — would bring back MoviePass is unclear.
Launched in 2017, the $9.95 monthly ticket service offered subscribers daily access to a non-3D theatrical screening. At its peak, MoviePass had more than 3 million subscribers eager to take advantage of a business model that hemorrhaged money.
The service sought to make deals with exhibitors who were paid face value by MoviePass for every ticket used by subscribers in exchange for user data.
Chains such as AMC Theatres, Regal Cinemas and others wouldn’t bite, opting instead to launch competing ticket services.
Despite several attempts to re-invent the MoviePass business model, investors pulled the plug on HMNY shares — especially after two reverse-stock option split attempts.
Whether investors would line up behind Farnsworth for another edition of MoviePass remains to be seen. HMNY could also sell the assets to a third party.
Moviefone, the 1990s-era movie ticket/recommendation telephone service owned by Helios and Matheson Analytics March 28 announced that former Rotten Tomatoes senior editor Grae Drake has assumed the role of “Ms. Moviefone” to serve as the brand’s personality.
The announcement comes as Moviefone launches a new initiative seeking to become a consumer destination for content, reviews and commentary for movies.
Competition includes online movie ratings platform Rotten Tomatoes, which is owned and operated by NBC Universal subsidiary Fandango.
In a nod to the former “Mr. Moviefone” telephone character, Drake will provide “go-to” commentary on the entertainment industry, in addition to movie recommendations.
Drake will interview filmmakers, celebrities and appear at industry events to provide an inside look at the movies.
She will be responsible for producing and hosting a series of original video content on the Moviefone site. Drake will also oversee the evolution of existing video content, such as the “Unscripted” series, providing Moviefone with the flexibility to continue creating and growing its video library.
Developing dynamic video content will allow viewers to form a bond with Ms. Moviefone and have a more engaging experience with the brand.
“Having a female voice of authority about movies is really important. It’s making the change I want to see regarding representation and gender parity in film media, which is still overwhelmingly male,” Matt Atchity, GM of Moviefone (and former editor-in-chief at Rotten Tomatoes), said in a statement.
Drake is most well-known as a Rotten Tomatoes editor and film critic, which included guest appearances on NBC’s “Today Show”and ABC’s “20/20”and “World News Tonight.”
She is also the recipient of the 2017 Press Award from the International Cinematographers Guild. In this new role, Drake reunites with Atchity and will be working with Drew Taylor, recently promoted to managing editor at Moviefone.
“Ms. Moviefone is the perfect way to connect with moviegoers and strengthen our brand recognition,” said Ted Farnsworth, CEO of Helios and Matheson Analytics. “Moviefone has a bright future ahead, and I know Grae is the perfect person to help make our vision a reality.”
Theatrical ticket subscription service MoviePass and corporate parent Helios and Matheson Analytics (HMNY) April 5 announced they have acquired Moviefone, the venerable movie listing and information service owned by Oath (formerly AOL).
Oath, which is owned by Verizon, will continue to sell Moviefone’s digital ad inventory and has taken an ownership stake in MoviePass through equity in HMNY in connection with the transaction.
MoviePass, which is attempting to sustain a loss-leader business model offering consumers daily access to a theatrical screening for less than $10 a month, claims Moviefone generates six million monthly unique visitors full seeking access to theaters and streaming services and all screens in between.
MoviePass says the acquisition represents “another pillar” in building its content marketing strategy and advertising revenue.
“This natural alignment will help us grow our subscriber base significantly and expand our marketing and advertising platform for our studio and brand partners,” Mitch Lowe, CEO of MoviePass, said in a statement. “Moviefone has been a go-to resource for entertainment enthusiasts for years, and we’re excited to bolster its presence and bring this iconic platform into the entertainment ecosystem of the future.”
Matt Young, VP of entertainment at Oath, said combining the two brands is a marketing win.
“Advertising partners will have a more powerful and comprehensive vehicle to promote their films,” Young said.
Founded in 1989 as a telecom service, Moviefone – similar to Fandango – now offers online movie show times and tickets, trailers, TV schedules, streaming information, cast and crew interviews and photo galleries. Editorial coverage includes entertainment news, trailers and clips, red-carpet coverage and celebrity features.
“This investment in digital content expands MoviePass’ reach further into multiple Hollywood touchpoints,” said Khalid Itum, VP, business development at MoviePass. “We believe the acquisition will allow us to connect studios and brands with potential new subscribers, capture their attention, and convert them into paying subscribers. We believe Moviefone will also allow us to provide relevant and appealing content to moviegoers while simultaneously increasing the value of the Moviefone brand.”