Newspaper article International New York Times

'Twilight' Will Linger Via New Series on Facebook

Newspaper article International New York Times

'Twilight' Will Linger Via New Series on Facebook

Article excerpt

Lions Gate has devised an unusual franchise-rekindling effort for the vampire saga, and it may hold clues to the social media giant's future in Hollywood.

Two years after Lions Gate released the fifth and supposedly final installment of its "Twilight" movie series, the studio has devised an unusual franchise- rekindling effort -- and it may hold clues about Facebook's future in Hollywood.

Lions Gate and Stephenie Meyer, the creator of the vampires-and- werewolves "Twilight" saga, on Tuesday announced plans to select five aspiring female directors to make short films based on "Twilight" characters. The mini-movies, financed by Lions Gate and its production partners, will be shown exclusively on Facebook next year.

"We think Facebook is a great way for us to introduce the world of 'Twilight' to a whole new audience while re-energizing existing fans," Michael Burns, Lions Gate's vice chairman, said in an interview.

The effort reflects the manner in which Hollywood is maintaining its most valuable film properties between sequels and prequels and remakes. In the past, studios barely kept a pilot light lit, forcing marketing teams to constantly reactivate cold fan bases. Now the savviest studio marketers are using Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube and other online platforms to keep fans on a constant low boil.

"This is the just the beginning -- a template, if you will," Mr. Burns added. "You can probably guess what might be coming next."

A similar short film series based on "The Hunger Games," Lions Gate's other megawatt movie property? A sixth "Twilight" movie? Mr. Burns declined to elaborate, though he did say, "We love Stephenie Meyer."

While fans salivate over his tease, Hollywood will no doubt focus on the Facebook component. What it signals seems clear: The social media service can be more than a platform for movie trailers. Its future may well include the distribution of entire movies.

The entertainment industry is enticed by that proposition because Facebook attracts such a giant audience: 1.3 billion monthly users worldwide. Movie companies are increasingly exploring nontraditional distribution of all kinds. On Monday, the Weinstein Company announced a deal to simultaneously debut the coming sequel to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" on Netflix and in certain Imax theaters.

Lions Gate has a history of novel Facebook partnerships. The studio created a teaser for "Divergent" in December that became the service's first video ad. More broadly, Facebook and entertainment industry executives have had informal discussions about partnerships tied to Oculus VR, a maker of virtual reality headsets that Facebook bought for $2 billion in July.

Facebook declined to make an executive available for an interview for this article. In a statement, Dan Rose, the Facebook vice president for partnerships, said Lions Gate's "premium video program" was a "great opportunity" to engage the 150 million people who followed the official "Twilight" Facebook pages. …

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