Is Hollywood Turning To VR To Boost Engagement?

Virtual reality continues to grow and gain a larger following, expanding out to various different industries but with one industry continuing to be the larger focus as it has been the last year or two - the gaming industry. With that in mind, it's easy to see why gaming has been a large area of focus for those making VR content, as the technology can be pricey and the platform simply lends itself well to the types of content that are contained in games, and gamers tend to be an especially passionate bunch who are more willing to shell out for expensive tech hardware. Having said that, other industries could also benefit vastly from utilizing VR, like cinema, and it seems we may already be starting to see the beginnings of Hollywood dipping a toe in the virtual reality waters.

Earlier this year, for instance, IMAX announced a partnership that would realize a goal of opening up multiple virtual reality theaters across the US. At the time of the announcement, which was during Google I/O 2016, there weren't any specifics on what sorts of content consumers and movie-goers could expect to see, but it was suggested as possible scenario that what IMAX would show off at these theaters would be shorter segments of video that could be based on actual films that were in theaters, as a way to sort of enhance the experience of seeing the actual film, and lasting somewhere around ten minutes in length. While it is possible to immerse yourself in VR for longer periods of time, everyone reacts to it differently and having everyone in attendance at a VR theater do a full dive into VR for an entire feature length film might be more than many could handle, with some potentially experiencing VR sickness. This is all speculation, of course, but it makes perfect sense as to why shorter experiences with cinema in VR might be the route that's taken, at least in the beginning, as a shorter experience would be more manageable by a majority of people. While not necessarily the same as sitting in an actual theater enjoying VR film experiences, consumers with a Gear VR already have a means to watch films at the theater in a way.

Through the use of apps like Oculus Video, you can load up movies stored on the phone and watch these in a theater-like setting, with seats all around you just like you were at the cinema watching a movie. Netflix for the Gear VR too, has a theater mode that allows for a more immersive and unique theater-like way to watch Netflix streaming content. If you're using the Daydream View, you have options like HBO GO VR and HBO Now VR which place you in a similar theater setting while you watch all of the available HBO content. With options like this already available, it seemed like only a matter of time before we started to see some actual proper production from Hollywood film studios. Another and perhaps better example of cinema in VR, not to mention a more recent example, might be the joint venture between AMD, Alienware, and 20th Century Fox to create the Assassin's Creed Movie VR experience. While the actual VR immersion can be accessed through the use of a VR headset like the Oculus Rift, the 360-degree video is also available on the web through Facebook on AMD's official page, as well as on their YouTube channel, which you can see below, and at AMC Theaters in a few different cities across the U.S. including San Francisco and Los Angeles until January 1st.

While this isn't an actual film seeing as it's only a little more than a minute and a half in length, it was especially created as a companion piece to the movie which releases this month, and even features scenes shot on set with the film's actors. It might not be a full movie, but it does show that big studios in Hollywood are interested in VR technology, and it's quite likely that more studios besides 20th Century Fox will start to put out experiences like this one which tie into films. In doing so, it would allow moviegoers to jump into these experiences while going to see a particular film and increase the overall excitement. It might take a bit before Hollywood starts producing content that is enjoyed on a much wider scale, but it seems clear that the film industry has taken a liking to virtual reality and will start to present more of these experiences over time.

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About the Author
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Justin Diaz

Head Editor
Lover of food, craft beer, movies, travel, and all things tech. Video games have always been a passion of his due to their ability to tell incredible stories, and home automation tech is the next big interest, in large part because of the Philips Hue integration with Razer Chroma. Current Device: Google Pixel.
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