“Hello and welcome to Moviefone!” began the distinctively-voiced announcement. “If you know the name of the movie you’d like to see, press 1.” If you were an active cinemagoer in the 1990s, chances are that you used Moviefone’s 777-FILM phone line to check theater showtimes. After 25 years of service, current corporate owners at AOL (another relic from the era) have announced that the service will be shut down this spring.
Personally, I’m a little surprised that AOL is still around.
Here in Boston, the Moviefone number was actually 333-FILM. The service thrived in the days after the proliferation of personal cell phones but before the internet boom. When you were out and about, calling Moviefone was much more convenient than picking up a newspaper to look for theater listings, and the ability to purchase tickets remotely (albeit with a service charge) was invaluable. Navigating the elaborate audio menus could be a pain, however.
Of course, the internet, and especially the advent of smartphones, made the 777-FILM line redundant pretty quickly. Honestly, I have no idea how it hung in this long. Nevertheless, Moviefone itself is not going away entirely. The current announcement directs callers to download the new iPhone or iPad app.
Although dead now, the 777-FILM line will forever by immortalized by the classic ‘Seinfeld’ skit in which Kramer, who has been receiving misdialed calls because his home phone number is one digit off, decides to impersonate the Moviefone automated voice.
I can hardly think of Moviefone without hearing Kramer say, “Why don’t you just tell me the name of the movie you’d like to see?” The two things are indelibly linked in my mind. Little did the show’s writers know that Moviefone would eventually incorporate voice recognition software for real.