Detailed by the New York Times, the once-popular phone service that provided movie times for your local theater will be shutting down approximately one month from now. Made famous by an episode of Seinfeld during the mid-nineties, consumers would call the number to choose a movie and theater using their phone’s keypad as well as listen to all the showing times for said movie. The service was quite popular long before the rise of the Internet and took about 3 million calls per week during the 1990’s.
As time wore on, Moviefone’s popularity waned due to the simplicity of checking movie times on the Internet. Even more recently, checking movie times using a smartphone when away from a computer has become commonplace. It’s significantly faster to tap an app rather than call up Moviefone and spend time listening to the recordings. Even Moviefone’s management recognizes this shift as the prerecorded message now says “To buy tickets and for all of your showtime information, please download the free Moviefone app on your smartphone or iPad.”
Approximately 15 years ago, AOL actually purchased Moviefone for a sum of $388 million and has been operating the call-in system since then. AOL’s management indicated that the number of calls to the service has been in a steady decline, but one of Moviefone’s founders, Andrew Jareki, doesn’t believe the decline is worth shutting down the phone service. Speaking to the Times, Jareki states “It’s a missed opportunity and unfortunately characterizes the way AOL has mismanaged the Moviefone business for quite a while. The fact that a lot of people still call — hundreds of thousands a month, from what I have been told — shows that it isn’t some ancient idea.”
AOL apparently outsourced the management of the phone service side of Moviefone some time ago and the quality of the service suffered. While the Moviefone brand is iconic, the popularity of that brand isn’t necessarily synonymous with mobile apps. Brands like Fandango were able to move more quickly into the Web space as well as the mobile application market with software that allows users to purchase movie tickets easily.