Film World Braces for Facebook IPO

10:29 AM PST 05/17/2012 by Georg Szalai
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg

Filmmakers have increasingly taken note of the affordable marketing potential of the social network.

CANNES -- Film industry folks here at the 65th annual film festival and market are mostly focused on the glitz, glamour, film buzz and dealmaking.

One big Silicon Valley deal set to take Wall Street by storm Friday though is also likely to get some attention — or at least provide fodder for small talk.

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That deal is social networking giant Facebook’s IPO, set to be the biggest U.S. Internet IPO ever with a stock market valuation of $100 billion-plus. That would handily top the $80.6 billion market value of Walt Disney, the most valuable entertainment conglomerate.

The IPO price will be set late Thursday.

Warner Bros. last spring became the first Hollywood studio to offer movies for rental on Facebook with The Dark Knight. And on Thursday, U.K. independent film producer and distributor Revolver Entertainment said it would launch FindWatchShare on Facebook, which it described as “the world’s first social video service.”

It allows users to discover, share and watch Revolver films — both new releases and catalog titles. Users who share films with their Facebook friends save up to 50 percent on the purchase price. Users can rent films directly through Facebook or rent and buy films through such online video stores as iTunes, Play.com and Amazon.com.

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Meanwhile, Hollywood and independent filmmakers alike have increasingly taken note of the affordable marketing potential of the social network.

“What makes Facebook so effective is the ease of sharing your interests with your friends,” explained Brenda Fiala, vp of strategy at digital marketing agency Blast Radius. “If your friend takes the time to ‘like’ a movie, you are more inclined to see the movie.”

“The increasing use of social media sites like Facebook is something that all independents have to pay attention to,” said Robbie Little, co-president of The Little Film Company, a worldwide film sales and marketing company. “With them, we can raise attention for our films with buyers, but also consumers.”

Big studios have also used Facebook to build fan communities around the likes of Avengers and The Hunger Games, but indies have more upside due to their limited marketing budgets, some say.

“The smart marketer with a small budget can box above their weight thanks to Facebook and social media,” said James Hobbis, one of the founders of Gruvi, which makes customized Facebook apps.

He says film folks must approach a Facebook campaign like a college party. Bring in the cool kids and opinion leaders, offer a great trailer, game, quiz or other fun content, so that they find it cool and make sure everybody is talking to each other to spread the word.

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