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Originally published Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 9:23 AM

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Warner Bros. to offer movie rentals on Facebook

Movie rentals are coming to Facebook. Warner Bros. says it is testing a service that will offer select movies for purchase or rental through the public pages of these movies on the world's largest online social network.

AP Technology Writer

NEW YORK —

Movie rentals are coming to Facebook. Warner Bros. says it is testing a service that will offer select movies for purchase or rental through the public pages of these movies on the world's largest online social network.

Starting Tuesday, Facebook users who visit the official page of "Batman: The Dark Knight" can click a "watch" icon and pay 30 Facebook credits, or $3, to watch the movie. The movie is streamed through a Facebook application.

Renters have access to a movie for 48 hours and can replay it as many times as they like. Warner Bros. said it will add other movies in coming months but did not say what those would be.

The page had nearly 4 million "likes" as of Tuesday afternoon. Another page, called simply "Dark Knight," had about 2 million - but this is not the official Warner Bros. page and the movie isn't available through it.

Warner Bros. didn't say how much it will cost to buy movies.

"Making our films available through Facebook is a natural extension of our digital distribution efforts," said Thomas Gewecke, president of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution, in a statement.

The offering is only open to people in the United States.

"While officially dubbed a test, we expect to see more studios get behind the effort given the large platform and higher price point," wrote Jefferies analyst Youssef H. Squali in a note to investors. He added that he sees the Facebook-Warner Bros. deal as "yet another caution sign" against movie rental company Netflix Inc.'s high stock value.

Netflix lost $11.95, or 5.8 percent, to close at $195.45. Time Warner Inc., which owns Warner Bros., fell 35 cents to close at $36.43.

"With Facebook's entry, the competitive playing field is getting crowded," the analyst said. "We expect this competition to curtail Netflix's subscriber growth and drive higher content costs, impacting revenue growth and (profit) margins over time."

Netflix had no comment.

(This version CORRECTS spelling of film title to "The Dark Knight" in second paragraph.)

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