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Mark Zuckerberg's Donation; "The Social Network" Heads to Theaters

Thursday, 23 Sep 2010 | 4:37 PM ET

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is setting a US record by giving $100 million - the largest philanthropic donation from someone his age.

The 26 year-old will appear on “Oprah” Friday to announce he’s giving the money to the Newark, NJ public school system. Newark can use the money - it’s one of the country’s weakest school systems – only half of its students graduate from its high schools.

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg is a product of public schools and the elite Phillips Exeter Academy, but none of his schooling took place in New Jersey.

So why Newark? Why now?

Trailers for Sony Pictures Entertainment's film, "The Social Network" are flooding the new fall TV shows and reviews are hitting major papers.

The movie is based on the founding of Facebook – and Zuckerberg does not come off as a sympathetic character. (You can watch the trailer here)

Today the New York Times features its review, rating the film a "NYT Critics' Pick."(Disclosure: I haven't yet seen the film.) The Times loves the film, and does NOT love Zuckerberg. Manohla Dargis writes: "It’s a resonant contemporary story about the new power elite and an older, familiar narrative of ambition, except instead of discovering his authentic self, Mark builds a database, turning his life — and ours — into zeroes and ones, which is what makes it also a story about the human soul." Zuckerberg is described as having "pathologically poor" people skills.

It just so happens that Friday – the day Z’s appearing with Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker on the Oprah show is the same day of the NY premiere of "The Social Network."

Is this a PR machine in overdrive or coincidence?

The folks at Facebook won't comment, but this philanthropic act has reportedly been in the works for a long time. Zuckerberg has long expressed concern about the state of public education and Zuckerberg and the very charismatic Booker reportedly met at the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley way back in July.

Another movie is coming out Friday, "Waiting for Superman," a documentary which digs into the problems in the public school system. It's gotten a huge amount of buzz in both Hollywood and Silicon Valley and has inspired major donations from the likes of DonorsChoose.org. Oprah and Zuckerberg are likely to point to this movie as a peg for his donation.

Facebook is private, so where Zuckerberg’s going to get all this money? He’s worth an estimated two billion dollars but it’s not coming out of his bank account. He's pledging Facebook shares. The transactions will most likely come through private placements on an exchange like SecondMarket, which specializes in trading shares of private companies.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.