MovieFone Sold at Bankruptcy Auction for $1.075 Million

Helios & Matheson
The MoviePass announcement in April 2018 on the acquisition of MovieFone.

The film ticketing website had recently been owned by MoviePass parent company Helios & Matheson.

MovieFone — the online theater ticket website that was once sold to AOL in 1999 for $388 million in stock — was acquired at a bankruptcy auction on Thursday for a bid of $1,075,000.

A business listed as Born In Cleveland, LLC was the winning bidder for the site, per a filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York on March 19. 

MovieFone had most recently been owned by bankrupt MoviePass owner Helios & Matheson, which acquired the site in 2018 from AOL's parent company with the goal to use its then-6 million average monthly audience to grow its subscriber base. 

MovieFone, which began in 1989 as interactive phone guide for film listings and showtimes, launched a website (MovieLink) in 1995 and once touted in its '90s heyday that 100 million moviegoers used its service.

The service was part of AOL's $4.4 billion sale to Verizon in 2015 before it was sold for $23 million in April 2018 to Helios & Matheson.

The MoviePass owner acquired MovieFone as a bet on a risky plan to offer, essentially, a movie ticket per day for just $9.95 a month — spurring the industry to consider the business as a potential boost for theaters. 

Weeks after the ticket site buy, Helios & Matheson also unveiled a stake in John Travolta's Gotti movie and said that it had acquired Emmett Furla Oasis Films to launch its own production division. 

In August 2018, MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe claimed the service was a box office force that was "effectively increasing the valuation of [studio] films on the back-end deals they create."

While MoviePass said it hit 3 million subscribers in 2018, it frequently changed its pricing plans and ran into a cash crunch. Helios & Matheson filed for bankruptcy in late January this year.