For perhaps the final time after 25 years, the iconic voice of Moviefone signed off on TODAY Tuesday with one last "Thanks for calling!"
The phone service that allowed callers in major cities to dial 777-FILM to get local movie times is being disconnected as part of a reboot of the Moviefone franchise that will live on as apps and a website.
For a quarter century, Russ Leatherman's voice has greeted callers with the famous, "Hellooo and welcome to Moviefone," that was once lampooned by Cosmo Kramer on "Seinfeld."
"I would say I'm not bummed at all,'' Leatherman told TODAY Tuesday in (what else?) a phone interview. "I left Moviefone in November. We were coming up on our 25th anniversary, and 25 years is a long time to do anything. Frankly, I've done all I could with the character. There's only so much 'press one, press two' that you can do."
AOL bought Moviefone in 1999 for $388 million in stock and now plans to transition to an online-based service that also includes phone apps.
"When was the last time you guys saw a kid dialing a phone or anything?" Leatherman said. "The truth is Moviefone is one of the most popular movie guides, websites, apps in the world and will continue to be."
Leatherman, who told the TODAY anchors that he is "happy to be talking to you as a human being," is a co-founder of Moviefone. He set out to create a distinctive voice that would keep callers using the service.
"It's part of my voice, and it's partly I knew it was going to be an automated phone service,'' he said. "We wanted people to remember it. We thought when you called 777-FILM, you would either think it was the happiest guy in the world or the most annoying voice you had ever heard in your life, but you'd probably remember it, and it seemed to have stuck."
Asked by the TODAY anchors to break out his signature Moviefone voice, Leatherman said, "It's gonna be the last time, maybe the last time ever. Thanks for calling!''