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MoviePass’ parent company is looking to sell it and Moviefone, as it continues to cut staff

MoviePass’ parent company is looking to sell it and Moviefone, as it continues to cut staff

Helios and Matheson Analytics is looking to sell its two key properties, the movie-ticket subscription app MoviePass and the movie-ticket site Moviefone, multiple sources close to the company told Business Insider.

And in the meantime, the company has been cleaning house. Layoffs have been happening for weeks, the sources said.

Some MoviePass staffers gave their two-week notice this week and multiple people were laid off and given no severance package, one source said. Business Insider reported in late August that MoviePass had laid off roughly a third of its staff, including its two-person exhibitor-relations team, which was responsible for building relationships between MoviePass and movie theaters.

MoviePass also laid off the staffer in charge of its social media in June, multiple sources said. The last posts on the company's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages were on June 30.

Helios and Matheson did not respond to a request to comment for this story.

Things aren't any better over at Moviefone.

Moviefone was known best in the 1990s as an automated phone service that would tell you when and where any movie was playing in theaters. At its height, when it became an online-ticketing presence, the site was bought by AOL for $388 million in 1999.

But with the emergence of Fandango and Atom Tickets, Moviefone became known more for its movie and TV editorial content.

Verizon's Oath sold Moviefone to Helios and Matheson for $1 million in April 2018. At the time, Helios and Matheson characterized the site as an asset in building its relationships with theaters and movie studios for MoviePass, as well as another space for advertising revenue. But like many ideas at MoviePass, that never fully materialized.

The Friday before the Labor Day holiday weekend, Moviefone editor Drew Taylor sent out an email to the site's freelancers informing them that "effective immediately all freelancing is suspended." The email, obtained by Business Insider, went on to say that Moviefone would make sure "everybody gets paid what they're owed as soon as possible," but multiple sources said some freelancers had not been paid for months.

Read more: "Ford v Ferrari" director describes what type of movies Disney wants from Fox going forward

The layoffs and suspension of freelancers come after a roller-coaster few years for MoviePass staff.

MoviePass surged in popularity in 2017 after Helios and Matheson bought the service and drastically lowered the price. But it burned through hundreds of millions of dollars and failed to find a business model that didn't lead to massive losses. In February, Helios and Matheson was delisted from the Nasdaq after trading below $1 for months.

During MoviePass' collapse, CEO Mitch Lowe blocked some subscribers out of their accounts, among other tactics to try and keep the company running, according to multiple inside sources who Business Insider spoke to during a four-month investigation into the company's practices, published in August.

On July 4, MoviePass shut down, citing "technical problems." The service had gradually come back online for some subscribers, but on Friday, several current subscribers told Business Insider that their MoviePass accounts had gone back offline in the last few days.