The Taylor Lautner action thriller Abduction was something of a bust at the box office in September, grossing just $28.1 million at the U.S. and Canadian box offices and mustering only a 4 percent score on movie-critics aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. Now Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF) is hoping Facebook can give the flick some new life.
The studio has decided to make the movie available for socially connected viewing on the social network. It’s not the first time a studio has released a movie on the social network, but it is the first time a new-release movie title has become available for rental through Facebook at the same time that it debuts on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download.
Lionsgate has partnered with Milyoni, an F-commerce firm that specializes in creating social cinema applications, and will allow renters to comment on and interact with their friends as Abduction is playing. And if they pass various trivia tests, viewers can also see behind-the-scenes interviews. Price for a 48-hour rental: $3.99, payable by PayPal or credit card.
Warner Bros. (NYSE: TWX) was first to the Facebook movie market last March, when it made the Christopher Nolan mega-hit The Dark Knight available for viewing on the social media platform for 30 Facebook credits. Since then, Miramax and the BBC have also tested Facebook as a video distribution and marketing platform.
It’s unclear what kinds of viewership numbers these two movies have generated for the studios. For its part, Facebook doesn’t appear to be placing great faith in these experiments as revenue generators. The social network said at the time of the projects that they were being driven by the studios and, in the case of the Miramax deal, a technology company called Ooyala Social — not by Facebook.
Lionsgate, meanwhile, inadvertently created a marketing mini-phenomenon in Hollywood last spring when it casually set up a fan page for a two-decade-old title, Dirty Dancing, only to watch it rack up more than 10 million likes virtually overnight. The surprise popularity of that page inspired Lionsgate not only to develop a Dirty Dancing game for Facebook, but also look for new ways to exploit the platform.
With Abduction star Lautner securing 12.7 million likes himself based primarily on his werewolfish Twilight persona – and the Twilight page liked by 27.9 million users — the studio may have a chance of stirring up some new interest in the Facebook airing of the movie.
As for Facebook, new video-usage data for December released by comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) Tuesday suggested the social network might not be growing so fast as a video portal. During December, Facebook tallied about 43 million video users, only about 2 percent more than the same period in 2010. But the average time spent per user viewing video on Facebook increased sharply during the same period — from 14.6 minutes per month to 23.9 minutes, according to comScore.