In Unexpected Plot Twist, MoviePass Buys Moviefone

The parent company of MoviePass, the controversial movie-going subscription service in the U.S., is buying Moviefone for approximately $23 million, according to Variety. In a deal that demonstrates a “substantial decline in value for Moviefone,” as Variety puts it, the interactive Moviefone info service is being sold by Verizon’s Oath unit as a promotional platform for its new owner.

Moviefone was acquired by AOL for $388 million in 1999, when it was known for its phone-based character of Mr. Moviefone, an announcer of local movie times who was featured on Seinfeld. Today, Moviefone’s value proposition is primarily in its app and community of movie fans:

Moviefone gives you full access to the entertainment universe, from movie theaters to streaming services and all screens in between. Whether you’re ready to score tickets for the blockbuster of the year, binge-watch the latest hit series or track down that collector’s DVD, Moviefone makes it happen— fast, cheap and just how you like it. And don’t just watch: Discover. Share. Interact with a worldwide community of film and TV fans on mobile, social and beyond. Because when you love entertainment, you’ll never have enough. Moviefone keeps it coming.

Now, the Wall Street Journal notes, Moviefone will serve as a platform to recruit new subscribers for MoviePass, which offers members unlimited regular (no 3D) movies in participating cinemas for the low price of $9.95 a month (terrifying theater owners in the process).

Moviefone has 6 million visitors while MoviePass—from Netflix co-founder Mitch Lowe—has about 2 million subscribers. As The Verge notes, MoviePass’s unusual business model is really a play for data and insights into the movie-going public: “It’s taking a loss in order to build a consumer base, and banking on collecting data about those consumers’ habits, and selling it down the road.”

“This natural alignment between MoviePass and Moviefone will help us grow our subscriber base significantly and expand our marketing and advertising platform for our studio and brand partners,” said Mitch Lowe, CEO of MoviePass, in a press release. “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.”

“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.”

“HMNY’s vision is to have MoviePass support the entire movie theater industry ecosystem—from distribution to exhibition and now, content,” added HMNY Chairman and CEO Ted Farnsworth. “Above all, we believe the Moviefone acquisition will serve as another valuable source of revenue for HMNY and MoviePass.”

“Moviefone provides users with full access to the entertainment ecosystem, from movie theaters to streaming services and on all screens in between,” added Matt Young, VP Entertainment, Oath.

“By bringing together MoviePass and Moviefone, entertainment lovers will enjoy the full suite of movie-theater subscription opportunities, discovering, interacting and sharing blockbusters, hit series and underground hits across the worldwide community of film and TV. Advertising partners will also have a more powerful and comprehensive vehicle to promote their films.”

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