Director Jon Singleton’s on-the-run no-brainer Abduction — an otherwise forgettable low-rent flick smashed by critics and largely ignored by the public — has crossed a significant milestone in the evolution of online distribution by becoming the first movie to be simultaneously released on DVD and Facebook in America.
Distributors have previously dipped their toes in Zuckerberg’s social media waters, streaming older movies through Facebook to sample the technology, but this is the first significant studio release to use the dual platform release strategy. Lionsgate, the film’s distrib, is no stranger to experimenting with release formats: it released Margin Call (starring Kevin Spacey, Paul Betany and Jeremy Irons) simultaneously on VOD and in theatres and made Kevin Smith’s horror-thriller Red State available online before its (limited) theatrical release.
Lionsgate and Facebook didn’t stop at making Abduction available only to watch. Viewers can also comment on it in real time and share those comments with friends. This is a similar concept to live tweeting films, which isn’t confined to Twitter. Some cinemas have embraced the idea, offering sections of seating reserved for tweeters and in some instances displaying tweets from audience members on screen. Cinema purists of the eyes straight ahead, mouth closed, phone-turned-off ilk may shiver at the thought.
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Abduction is only available on Facebook for US audiences, but not to matter: it’s not worth the proverbial pinch of salt. Far more interesting than anything in the film is the potential turning point its Facebook release signifies. As Hollywood continue to scramble to find ways to combat the financial damage incurred by online piracy — its twisting of the US Congress’ arm with relation to the SOPA bill a recent case in point — the window between theatrical and home release will narrow and streaming through social media platforms such as Facebook seems inevitable. Google, which owns YouTube, will be well placed to compete.