Hello? Welcome to the new owner of Moviefone — whoever that is.
Moviefone, the once-popular movie listing service that was left stranded after the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing of its parent company, has been sold — for the low, low price of just over $1 million. But the identity of the buyer is a question mark.
The winning bidder for Moviefone’s assets, with an offer of $1,075,000, is listed as an outfit called “Born In Cleveland LLC.” On Thursday, a judge overseeing the bankruptcy proceedings of Helios and Matheson Analytics, whose properties included MoviePass and Moviefone, issued an order approving the sale.
The winning bid was less than one-fourth of the estimated $4.38 million net book value of Moviefone’s intellectual property, per Helios and Matheson’s bankruptcy filing. And it’s a fraction of the value of the once-popular service during its dot-com heyday: AOL acquired Moviefone for $388 million in stock in 1999.
There are no listings for a business called “Born In Cleveland LCC.” Alan Nisselson, a partner at New York law firm Windels Marx who is serving as the bankruptcy trustee for Helios and Matheson, did not respond to a request for more info. Nor did Moviefone GM Matt Atchity, who was retained to keep the site running during the sale process. Nearly all of Moviefone employees were laid off at the end of January after Helios and Matheson’s Chapter 7 filing.
If “Born In Cleveland LLC” defaults on its agreement to purchase of Moviefone, the trustee is authorized to sell the site to the runner-up bidder: Fomopop, which offered $1.05 million for Moviefone. That company operates an over-the-top streaming guide site called The Streamable.
According to bankruptcy court documents, Nisselson is beginning work to find a buyer for MoviePass, the theater-subscription service that shut down last fall after sustaining heavy financial losses.
The judge authorized Helios and Matheson’s trustee to continue paying Moviefone’s expenses, estimated at $36,357 per month (including $11,107 for web servers on Amazon AWS), through May 15 until a sale officially closes.
Helios and Matheson had acquired Moviefone in April 2018 from Verizon (which picked up the movie site via its AOL deal) for $1 million in cash, plus HMNY stock that is now worthless. Moviefone was founded in 1989 as a dial-up service for checking movie times. In 2014, AOL shut off the phone service and tried to reposition Moviefone as a broader entertainment destination.