Facebook, Warner team on "Watchmen" promo

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Warner Bros. has some new friends at Facebook.

Film director Zack Snyder holds his award for Director of the Year during the ShoWest Award show at the Paris Las Vegas resort in Las Vegas, Nevada April 2, 2009. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

In an industry first, the studio’s Warner Home Video unit is set to announce this week a plan to sync up “friend” networks on Facebook with the interactive community-screening features of Warners’ Blu-ray Disc releases, starting with the release of “Watchmen Director’s Cut.”

The studio partnership with the social network Web site will use the BD-Live interactive feature on high-def discs, allowing “Watchmen” purchasers to view the film simultaneously and share comments with their Facebook friends.

BD-Live has always allowed such “community screenings” via its “buddy list” function. But those lists now can be synched with Facebook’s friend networks for immediate access to a broad network of acquaintances.

Another new Blu-ray feature -- dubbed Warner Bros. Maximum Movie Mode -- will allow split-screen viewing of “Watchmen” to focus on elements in director Zack Snyder’s on-camera commentary.

The partnership is strategic only, with no money changing hands between the parties.

“We want to do this partnership with Facebook because research has shown that consumers want to have social networking capabilities with BD-Live,” said Kris Brown, vp worldwide high definition at Warner Home Video. “Previously, those possibilities have been limited to your friends within BD-Live and the general BD-Live community.”

The Facebook arrangement will require users to buy and play Blu-ray disc copies of the film. But it will pack a big promo wallop for Warners and should also help spread the Blu-ray gospel, when those watching “Watchmen” and the studio’s other movies offer live commentary to their Facebook friends.

Facebook users regularly inform their friends of all entertainment activities via what’s known as “status updates.”

“Watchmen” will be released in DVD and Blu-ray simultaneously in late July on DVD and Blu-ray, with the theatrical version going out on standard disc. The standard DVD will sell for $28.98 and the Blu-ray director’s cut for $35.99.

There will be no bonus features on the standard-disc version of “Watchmen,” while a special edition DVD of the directors cut -- retailing for $34.99 -- will place elaborate bonus features on a second disc. A street date of July 21 or July 28 was being finalized, making for a release either just before or after the annual Comic-Con convention, which runs in San Diego from July 22 to July 26.

“Watchmen” also will bow simultaneously on various digital platforms. Those include On Demand pay-per-view availability through digital cable, satellite TV and Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game consoles.

PPV offerings will be limited to the theatrical version of the film. “Watchmen Director’s Cut” will be available day-and-date via iTunes and Amazon on Demand.

An effects-laden action pic based on a series of classic comics, “Watchmen” sold $182 million worth of tickets at the worldwide box office. Though the picture was something of a theatrical underachiever, it’s considered a candidate to outperform in home entertainment release.

The Warner-Facebook partnership continues a trend in which studios have sought to surmount technical hurdles to use BD-Live for more interactive offerings.

Recent improvements in wireless router technology have home entertainment execs confident that computer-to-television connectivity will quickly spread. Interactive disc features are seen as key to consumers embracing Blu-ray, but BD-Live requires broadband access.

Warner Home Video mounted one of the most-noted previous BD-Live ventures. The studio last year staged a community screening of “The Dark Knight,” during which director Christopher Nolan offered live commentary to 50,000 viewers on a dedicated Web site.