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The Dark Knight on FacebookWarner Bros. has just announced a plan to begin offering movies for purchase and/or rental download through the company's Facebook movie pages.  Just "like" a particular movie's fan page, click "rent" and you'll have instant access to a movie you can watch on your small computer screen while sitting at your uncomfortable desk. First title out of the shoot is The Dark Knight - see diagram below.

No, the movies aren't free. In fact, consumers will need to use Facebook Credits to apply towards the rental or purchase. The cost per rental will be 30 Facebook Credits which translates to $3, about the going rate for digital movie rentals. No word on available extras like supplements and extra features found on DVD, and blu-rays, however we're assuming the offerings will increase if the service's popularity takes off.

Warner is beginning the testing by offering, beginning today, the opportunity for fans who "liked" the Christopher Nolan film, The Dark Knight to rent the title through it's official Facebook Page. Viewers will have complete control over the film while watching (pause, playback, full-screen, etc) but similar to Itunes and other like services, access to the film will disappear after 48 hours from the date of rental. Viewers will also have full Facebook functionality with the ability to post comments and interact with friends while watching the movie.

Bold move for Warner to do this, and being first could indeed be a small coup, but just another way of tethering movie watching to computers and hend-helds is really just a step sideways rather than a huge leap forward. Sure, the "Facebook" collaboration is the "hook" that has the potential to make this thing successful, but in all reality, it's just another means of distribution (with a huge audience, granted), rather than a breakthrough moment in digital film methodology.

"Facebook has become a daily destination for hundreds of millions of people," said Thomas Gewecke, President of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution.  "Making our films available through Facebook is a natural extension of our digital distribution efforts.  It gives consumers a simple, convenient way to access and enjoy our films through the world’s largest social network."

They'll likely see how this all goes before committing total resources - and we can imagine the other studios are either scrambling as we speak or watching nervously - but Warner says they'll expand the service to digital movie purchases in the near future. With Facebook's huge fanbase, the potential is there to make this is a success, but something tells us the studios will find a way to screw this one up too. Call us skeptical.

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