MovieFone hangup for Fox

The battle for the box office has a new front: the phone lines.

On the eve of the release of “Anastasia,” the studio’s animated feature debut, 20th Century Fox was seething over the fact that the film was the only new release not listed on the MovieFone telephone ticketing and movie schedule service.

Moreover, Fox said it is being barred from the listings because the studio refuses to cough up $20,000 in advertising for each of the films it submits for listing, according to an exec at the studio.

“We have been told by MovieFone that they will not run listings of our films if we do not advertise on their service,” said Jeffrey Godsick, Fox’s senior VP of publicity and promotions.

Odd girl out

“Anastasia” was the only film not listed on the service prior to its opening this weekend, despite the fact it is being released on the most screens (2,480) of the four new films. The other openings are Par’s “The Rainmaker,” New Line’s “Mortal Kombat” and Warner Bros.’ “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” which will open on only 824 screens.

“All of ‘Anastasia’s’ show times will be listed today (Friday),” said MovieFone president Russ Leather-man. “Our policy is not to discuss clients, but we’ve been deluged with calls about ‘Anastasia’ and I don’t understand where this rumor came from. We are a full-service directory.”

Others chime in

However, a marketing exec from another studio said he encountered problems in the past with MovieFone not including his company’s releases in scattered situations. He said the situa-tion was resolved amicably despite what he considered “extortionist” tactics.

While Disney reportedly bought up all the advertising space on the service, in L.A., Disney’s ads touting “The Little Mermaid,” “Flubber” and a contest to win a trip to Walt Disney World share time with ads for “Entertainment Tonight” and Para-mount, touting “The Rainmaker.”

The only Fox film to be listed among the 26 films on MovieFone is “Alien Resurrection,” which does not open until Nov. 26. “Anastasia” is, however, listed on MovieLink, the online component of MovieFone.

“I think they’ll have a false adver-tising problem soon. They claim they list every movie but obviously they don’t,” said the Fox exec, who also claims MovieFone did not list Fox’s recent release “A Life Less Ordinary” in three major markets.

– Leonard Klady contributed to this report.

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