Moviefone, a brand once valued at nearly $400 million, has sold to a TV producer for a tiny fraction of that amount -- $1.075 million.
Los Angeles-based Cleveland O'Neal III, creator of the syndicated daytime TV series "Made in Hollywood," on Wednesday announced his holding company Born in Cleveland LLC is the new owner of Moviefone, the film listings service most recently owned by defunct service MoviePass' parent company.
O'Neal's company was the winning bidder for Moviefone, which was auctioned during bankruptcy proceedings for MoviePass and its parent, New York-based data firm Helios & Matheson Analytics Inc. A bankruptcy court judge approved the transaction last week.
Moviefone, founded in 1989, was known for the booming voice that greeted users of its former call-in service, which was once lampooned on the sitcom "Seinfeld." The company now operates a website with information and film trailers for new theatrical movies and home video titles.
The low price point at the bankruptcy option shows how far the brand has fallen through the years. AOL in 1999 purchased the company for $388 million in stock. It eventually became part of Verizon's Oath, which formed under Verizon to encompass the mobile phone giant's digital assets including AOL and Yahoo.
MoviePass' owner bought Moviefone in 2018 in a deal worth up to $23 million in hopes of using it as a way to draw new subscribers to the cinema subscription service and make money from advertising online. That deal included $1 million in cash, plus Helios & Matheson stock and warrants.
As with most everything related to MoviePass, the plan didn't work. MoviePass and Helios & Matheson declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy in January, succumbing to a money-losing business model of subsidizing movie ticket sales while charging subscribers a low monthly fee. MoviePass managed to quickly attract subscribers with its $9.95 monthly subscription fee but soon faced a major cash crunch because it paid theaters the full price of every ticket.
Now O'Neal, founder of production and distribution firm Connection III Entertainment Corp., is looking to use Moviefone to buttress the "Made in Hollywood" TV brand. The show, which features celebrity interviews and coverage of film premieres, has been running since 2005 and airs on local TV channel groups including CBS and Fox owned and operated stations.
In a statement, O'Neal called the combination of "Made in Hollywood" and Moviefone's digital assets "a perfect marriage of entertainment brands."
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