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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

For the first time ever, a film distributor will use Facebook to debut a movie exclusively via a ticketed live event, executives tell Axios.

Driving the news: "The Outsider," a controversial documentary about the construction of the 9/11 Museum in Manhattan, will premiere publicly on Facebook for $3.99 on Aug. 19.

Why it matters: Putting films on Facebook could lower the barrier to distribute content for smaller filmmakers and studios, especially for those looking to reach audiences in smaller markets where it's harder to broker local deals.

  • "Until this film, you would have had to find an international distributor to do individual broadcast and theatrical deals," says Steven Rosenbaum, director of "The Outsider."
  • "Once you got past big English-speaking markets, it wouldn’t have been worth it," he says. "Without Facebook, all of the mid-sized and smaller markets would never see this."

Details: The film will be available on Facebook Live at 8 p.m. ET to all worldwide Facebook users that pay for access via a link provided by the film's distributor.

  • The premiere can be viewed by any Facebook users in countries where Paid Online Events are available. Currently, they are available in more than 100 countries worldwide.
  • Facebook will be providing some paid promotion to help market the event. The tech giant has committed to not taking a cut of any ticketed events or revenue from independent creators until 2023.
  • The film will play in select theaters and on-demand via streaming in September.
  • The global debut will be followed by a panel discussion on Facebook Live. The film will play in select theaters and on-demand via streaming in September.

How it works: Like any other ticketed event on Facebook, the distributors of the film — a global film distribution company called Abramorama — set the price for the premiere.

  • Rosenbaum said the goal was to keep the price low enough for now to be able to attract a wide audience.
  • Facebook has been home to exclusive streaming shows and live events for months, but it's never premiered a film before.

Go deeper: The film documents the drama behind the construction of the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Its directors, Pamela Yoder and Steven Rosenbaum, have spent nearly two decades archiving the story.

  • Given that nearly 1/3 of the museum's visitors are international, Rosenbaum said an international audience was important for the film's debut.
"The Outsider" co-directors Steven Rosenbaum and Pamela Yoder

Controversy surrounding the documentary also makes the premiere notable.

  • The museum's management has called it "defamatory" for its portrait of what interviewees in the film refer to as the "Disneyfication" of 9/11.
  • The museum has argued that the film's lens is "ideological." Rosenbaum has responded that it's "focused on free speech, and open debate and discussion."

What to watch: "The Outsider" is the first movie to be distributed this way, and it's still unclear what price consumers are willing to pay for any movie, let alone a documentary, on Facebook.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Oct 26, 2021 - Technology

Facebook's scandals have been great for shareholders

Expand chart
Data: YCharts; Chart: Axios

Facebook has been embroiled in scandal for the past five years, and while the specific allegations change over time, a central theme is constant. Given the choice between commercial and moral imperatives, Facebook always seems to choose the option that is best for the share price.

Why it matters: Facebook's stock chart supports that narrative. Since the 2016 scandals alleging that the social network was infiltrated by foreign actors trying to influence the outcome of democratic elections, Facebook's revenues — and its stock — have been soaring.

Oct 26, 2021 - Technology

Facebook seeks fountain of youth

Data: Piper Sandler Taking Stock With Teens Study; Chart: Axios Visuals

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday said that the company is pivoting its strategy to focus on young adults, following reports that teens have fled its apps.

Why it matters: A series of stories based on leaked whistleblower documents suggest the company sees the aging of its user base as an existential threat to its business.

Tech's message to the Hill: We're not Facebook

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat will appear before Congress Tuesday with a key priority: distinguishing their practices from Facebook's.

Why it matters: Facebook is under attack, and its tech peers don't want to get caught in the crossfire as lawmakers mull legislation to rein in the company.