WB wants a 'Watchmen' friend

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Warner Bros. has some new friends at Facebook. In an industry first, Warner Home Video is set to announce a plan to sync "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 networking Web site will use the BD-Live interactive feature on HD discs, allowing "Watchmen" purchasers to view the film simultaneously and share comments with their Facebook friends.

BD-Live always has allowed such community screenings via its "buddy list" function. But those lists now can be synced 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," WHV vp worldwide high definition Kris Brown said. "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 purchase and play Blu-ray Disc copies of the film. But it will pack a big promotional wallop for Warners and should help spread the Blu-ray gospel when those watching "Watchmen" and other WHV movies offer live commentary to their Facebook friends.

Facebook users regularly inform their friends of entertainment activities via status updates.

"Watchmen" will be released on DVD and Blu-ray simultaneously in late July, 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," but a special edition DVD of the director's cut — retailing for $34.99 — will place elaborate bonus features on a second disc. A street date of July 21 or July 28 is being finalized, making for a release just before or after the annual Comi-Con convention.

"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" registered $182 million in worldwide boxoffice. Although the pic was a theatrical underachiever, it's considered a candidate to outperform in home entertainment release.

The WHV-Facebook partnership continues a trend by 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 spread quickly. Interactive disc features are seen as key to consumers embracing Blu-ray, but BD-Live requires broadband access.

WHV mounted one of the most noted previous BD-Live ventures. The distributor 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. (partialdiff)
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