August 23, 2011, 1:30 PM

Miramax and Universal bring the movie theater to Facebook

Consumers can stream films for 30 Facebook credits, the equivalent of $3.

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Movie studios Miramax Films and Universal Pictures have followed the lead of Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures by making certain films available for consumers to stream on Facebook.

The two new studios have embraced Facebook in different ways. Miramax launched “The Miramax eXperience,” which features 20 movies, including “Pulp Fiction,” “Swingers” and “Shall We Dance?” on both its Facebook page and those of available movies. By comparison, consumers can find and stream “The Big Lebowski,” a cult classic that is the sole film Universal is streaming, only by visiting the movie’s Facebook page.

Both studios charge consumers 30 Facebook Credits, the equivalent of $3 in Facebook’s virtual currency, to  stream a film. Consumers can view purchased films for up to 48 hours after hitting play.   

“We are big in Facebook and what it could mean for the future of the content business,” read a Miramax blog post. “Today there are over 50 million friends on Facebook that mention a Miramax film in their profile, interact with our Miramax page, or Like the fan pages of beloved Miramax titles and talent.”

In addition to streaming an entire film, the Miramax eXperience enables consumers to view free film clips, play games and share information about films on Facebook. While Miramax launched the application with only a video-on-demand option, it says it plans to eventually allow consumers to buy a film and store it in a web-based digital locker that will be accessible from a range of devices.

Miramax notes that the application remains in beta testing. “I know you don’t hear that word a lot from movie studios,” reads the blog. “Usually we premiere a film after working on it for years, see how it does over a weekend or two and then move on to the next project. Our goal in building this app in just eight short weeks is to emulate what Facebook does better than any company in the world—don’t wait for perfection; launch and then iterate, iterate and iterate again.”

Miramax said it built its application with help from Ooyala and AllDigital. Universal’s application, which was built with vendor Milyoni, allows consumers to Like and share quotes from “The Big Lebowski.” And, to entice consumers to share on Facebook, Universal offers users who rent the film a 10 Facebook Credit discount to 10 friends to rent the movie on the social network.

While the movie studios try to refine their Facebook streaming services, Netflix—which analysts at investment firm Goldman Sachs estimate will end mail distribution of DVDs by 2020 in favor of online streaming—is hardly sitting quietly. The retailer is also working on an integration with Facebook, wrote CEO Reed Hastings in a January letter to investors; Hastings also sits on the Facebook board of directors. “We’re working on an extensive Facebook integration, which will further the notion of a personal Netflix account,” he wrote. “This evolution from household to personal relationship will take several years, and there will always be some households that only have one account.” He did not provide further details.

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