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Apr 23 2011

Phone calls in films

To enjoy a film, you have to suspend disbelief and get absorbed in the story. One sure way to destroy that feeling and take you completely out of the film is having a character dial a phone number that starts with 555, which are never given out to customers. They do this because apparently viewers often will note the numbers and call them (I have no idea what drives people to do this) so that if a real number is used, the owner of that number gets tons of annoying calls.

In the 2003 Jim Carrey comedy “Bruce Almighty,” God’s phone number (776-2323, no area code) appears on the Carrey character’s pager, so of course moviegoers called it and asked to speak to God. That’s kind of funny, unless you happened to own that number in your area code.

The Associated Press reported that a Florida woman threatened to sue Universal Pictures because she was receiving 20 calls an hour on her cellphone. The phone number also connected divine-seeking callers to a church in Sanford, N.C., where the minister, who happened to be named Bruce, was not amused. The BBC reported that even a man in the Manchester, England, area was receiving up to 70 calls a day from folks seeking help and forgiveness.

At the time, Universal explained that the number it chose was not in use in the Buffalo area, where the movie was set. The studio subsequently replaced it in TV and home video versions with, yes, a 555 number.

I have wondered why, with their multi-million dollar budgets, film companies don’t simply purchase a few dozens of real numbers that are sufficiently varied and nondescript so that no viewer would likely remember that they have seen them before in other films.

So I was glad to see in the above article that some films are purchasing real numbers where, if you should call it, you receive a recorded message, maybe promoting the film.

3 comments

  1. 1
    Joanna

    Great blog entry! That is interesting that so many people call the numbers. I could see kids doing something like that since I tried writing down the address to Sesame Street when I was little. I’m going to pay attention to the phone numbers given in future movies. Who knows if it’s not a 555 number I might give it a ring.

  2. 2
    Kim Fire Pit

    I never knew people actually called the numbers! Thats funny! I told my friend about the article and he said that he always thought the 555 was a Washington D.C. number. I think the idea of putting real numbers that if people call will promote the movie or show is a great marketing technique though.

  3. 3
    Markus

    The reason why they don’t do it is because I think it may take too much time to maintain a line. It’s the same reason they don’t buy normal domain names when the movie comes out. They always have to add “themovie.com” in the end of the movie name. They’re just too cheap and a little to selfish may be

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