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How do you launch a movie without a huge marketing budget?  Release it on Facebook and let the movie fans do the marketing for you.

That’s the strategy for “Marley” the new movie from Kevin Macdonald (One Day in September, State of Play, The Last King of Scotland and Touching the Void) that documents the definitive life story of Bob Marley, the musician, revolutionary, and legend with exclusive interviews, rare footage and performances.   With a simultaneous Facebook/theater release tomorrow (20th April), the movie –  produced by Shangri-La Entertainment – will be available for VOD streaming on the Bob Marley Facebook page, courtesy of the Milyoni f-commerce social theater app for $6.99.

Facebook fans get to see the movie first – from one minute after midnight; traditionalists can wait until the popcorn cleaners have cleaned their local movie theater, before heading out for the big screen experience later in the day.

We agree with director Kevin Macdonald’s view (see video below) that releasing movies on a fan-first basis via Facebook makes smart sense for niche – and high-interest movies, especially when marketing budgets are tight.  Tap the contagious enthusiasm of your fans to drive word of mouth traffic to both theaters and the streaming page.

We think the entertainment industry can – and should – go further.  Just as many movies use preview screenings, also known as word of mouth screenings, to drum up movie buzz and word of mouth demand just prior to general release, these could be complemented with special fan screenings on Facebook.  This would amplify movie buzz – especially if the Facebook movie streaming app included a movie merchandise store designed to turn fans into human billboards for the movie.  Presumably, one thing holding them back is the fear of piracy; but someone must be onto a solution.

Beyond the entertainment industry, we think there’s a real opportunity for brands and retailers here; rather than simply pay for ads in movie theaters and for product placement and hope for a halo effect, could brands sponsor exclusive Facebook movie/tv show previews to their fans?  For example, Adidas is reported to have just signed a $260 million dollar sponsorship deal with NBA Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose; it’d be so cool to be able to stream Bulls games from the Adidas and Rose FB pages, with exclusive D Rose interviews pre- and post- game.  Lawyers, in their ‘sales-prevention officer mode’ would no doubt try to find a reason not to like the idea – but fans would love it – and pay.


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