Service to integrate social media tools

Blockbuster plans to make 8,000 to 10,000 films it rents available on its Facebook page through a new video-on-demand service that will integrate social media tools like comments and emoticons.

The films, that Blockbuster will rent similar to how Warner Bros., Paramount and Universal offer up titles on their Facebook pages, will enable viewers to click a chosen of reactions as scenes play. Viewers will also be able to see comments from friends to footage as it plays.

Move will enable Blockbuster to offer up “Pop Up Video”-like commentary with filmmakers, where a director like David O. Russell will discuss his thoughts on “The Fighter.”

“For us it’s a matter of optionality and making it available,” said Blockbuster’s head of corporate and digital development Neil Davis.

“We know the crowd sourcing is becoming more important when it comes to what people watch and buy,” so the company wanted to make sure it gave viewers a choice of how much they want to interact with the films they watch.

Offering could also eventually serve as a way for studios to test screen films online, rather than through research screenings in theaters and provide filmmakers and executives with real-time feedback.

Blockbuster has been waiting for Facebook to perfect the social media functions before launching it, which may occur at the end of November. It currently doesn’t rent films on Facebook now.

The new offering was revealed at the Writers Guild of America, West early Thursday during an early look at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and the Entertainment Matters program that will guide Hollywood through the massive tech confab.

Davis also said the rental chain may also go back to acquiring independent films, given that it can monetize the titles better across various platforms — stores, DVD-by-mail, online, kiosks — that it didn’t have when it first started picking up indies and offering the films strictly in its physical stores.

Davis said Blockbuster will launch more VOD services in the future as part of its acquisition by Dish Network, which plans to pony up a considerable amount of coin to promote the brand in the U.S. and overseas.

“We were inches away from the grave,” before Dish acquired the company, Davis said. “For us, this is a phoenix project and letting people know we’re still alive.”

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