It’s tough sledding for any business in 2020, especially one designed to give you movie times by phone in a distinct voice. That’s probably why Moviefone, the once-popular telephone service, is officially bankrupt and worth a fraction of what it once was.
Variety reported on Saturday that Moviefone is officially bankrupt and worth just one percent of what its former valuation of nearly $400 million it was given when AOL bought the company in 1999. Variety reported that Moviefone, which also deals in movie news as well as listing times, is running on life support.
Meanwhile, tucked away in the bankruptcy filing was the disclosure that the net book value of Moviefone’s intellectual property is estimated to be $4,379,504. That’s just 1.1% of AOL’s $388 million stock deal for Moviefone in 1999, right before the internet bubble burst.
While Moviefone is now worth just a pittance of its erstwhile valuation, it’s actually one of Helios and Matheson’s most valuable assets: The company reported total assets of under $10 million in the Chapter 7 filing.
Perhaps the most memorable Moviefone moment in pop culture was when Kramer from Seinfeld was the voice of the company, though he wasn’t all that good at deciphering touch-tone phone inputs to help their customers.
The Variety story actually references Kramer from Seinfeld specifically, which means absolutely everyone is making this joke at Moviefone’s expense.
Nearly all of Moviefone employees were laid off at the end of January after Helios and Matheson’s Chapter 7 filing. However, the site still has one staffer left to keep the lights on (who, for the record, is not “Seinfeld’s” Cosmo Kramer): Moviefone general manager Matt Atchity tells Variety he’s been retained by the trustee overseeing Helios and Matheson’s liquidation to keep Moviefone running pending a sale of the property.
And indeed, Twitter soon lit up with Seinfeld references about Kramer’s fictional time with the company.
Literally that Seinfeld episode. Kramer is running Moviefone. https://t.co/vxilNOsENn
— Tiffany Vazquez 🇵🇷 (@filmiliarface) February 15, 2020
“If you no longer have any need for Moviefone, press 1…”. https://t.co/uBoEnU2SIb
— Rocky Mountain Mike (@RockyMntnMike) February 15, 2020
It must be extremely weird to be the only employee of a once-large company that was popular enough to be a bit in one of the most influential sitcoms of all time. But perhaps amazingly, Moviefone was actually owned by the same company, Helios and Matheson, that owns Moviepass, another shuttered movie-related startup that saw a swift rise and subsequent fall as other technology and companies passed it by. Variety reported that it was actually the fall of Moviepass that cratered Helios and Matheson, in essence taking Moviefone down with it. Considering MoviePass is already gone and Moviefone is still hanging on, though, it’s impressive that the latter lasted longer when you really think about it.