Moviefone Hanging It Up, Going All-Digital
Once so ubiquitous that it starred in a "Seinfeld" episode, the movie listings company is dropping its call-in service to focus on building the audience for its app.
Another casualty of digital culture, Mr. Moviefone's days are numbered.
Once so ubiquitous that it drove a Seinfeld plotline, the popular call-in movie listing and ticketing service says it will be shutting down its telephone-based operations next month to transition users and resources toward the Moviefone digital app.
For the past 25 years, callers to 777-FILM in major cities across America have been answered by the boisterous greeting: "Hello, and welcome to Moviefone!" But over the weekend a new voice came on the line, advising callers that "the 777-FILM number will no longer be in service in the near future."
"To buy tickets and for all of your showtime information, please download the free Moviefone app on your smartphone or iPad," the decidedly less enthusiastic voice adds.
At its peak in the mid-1990s -- around the time Kramer spoofed the service on Seinfeld -- Moviefone received more than 3 million calls a week. In 1999, AOL paid $388 million for the company.
Last year, production house BermanBraun, founded by Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun, partnered with AOL to relaunch the brand with an emphasis on its website and mobile strategy.
"The call-in service has been in pretty steady decline," Jeff Berman, the president of BermanBraun, told The New York Times in an interview. "Our customers are much more interested in our award-winning app, and we need to invest our resources in the future, part of which involves a major reimagining of Moviefone." He declined to provide details.
An unnamed AOL exec quoted by the Times said weekly calls currently come in by the "thousands."
Russ Leatherman, the Moviefone co-founder who voiced the service's famous greeting, parted ways with the company last November.
Asked by the Times what it was like to become famous as the voice of a cultural catchphrase, Leatherman said: "It's been a total blast, but if I've heard my last 'Do the voice,' that's OK, too. I'm ready to work on new projects and get back to being an entrepreneur."