By Hillary Busis
April 12, 2012 at 10:59 PM EDT
Everett Collection


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On April 20 —that release date must be a coincidence, right? — Marley, a long-in-the-works documentary about reggae legend Bob Marley, will hit theaters. But that’s not all: The doc will also simultaneously stream on Facebook.

As the Associated Press initially reported, the social network will allow users to rent the film for $6.99 starting the same day it opens in theaters. This is unprecedented territory; though Facebook has been offering movie rentals since March 2011, it has never hosted a film that’s also appearing on movie screens.

“It’s a unique opportunity for a film that’s not a blockbuster,” says Sandi Hemmerlein, General Manager of Tuff Gong Worldwide — Marley executive producer Ziggy Marley’s record label. “One of our goals is to give as many people as we can access to it.” The streaming will be available in Caribbean territories including Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas as well as the U.S. 

It makes sense that this specific film is Facebook’s first foray into simultaneous streaming. As Hemmerlein tells EW, “Bob Marley has such a strong presence both online and offline. He’s reached such iconic status, particularly in the years since his death.” Indeed, Marley’s Facebook page has nearly 38 million “likes,” putting it among the social network’s most popular profiles. And since fans can no longer communicate with Marley directly, his page gives them an opportunity to connect: “They can watch videos, see old photos, quote lyrics back and forth to each other — it’s one of the more engaged, interactive places,” Hemmerlein explains.

Oh, and about that release date? “It’s a date that holds somewhat of a dual significance,” Hemmerlein says carefully, noting that Bob Marley’s son Stephen was also born on April 20th. “Obviously, it resonates with a certain fan base. It’s a memorable date for a lot of people. It also happens to fall on Friday, which is usually when movies come out.” All good points — though it’s also worth mentioning that it’ll be much easier for fans to, er, jam if they plan on watching the doc via Facebook.

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