Virtual reality series Spheres has been acquired at the Sundance Film Festival 2018 for seven figures, Facebook's Oculus division which supported the project revealed on Wednesday. The move marks by far the largest VR purchase at the latest iteration of the Park City, Utah-based film festival so far and is widely interpreted as a sign that VR filmmaking is now maturing as an art form. The rights to the three-part series about a black hole were purchase by CityLights but more specific financial details of the deal remain undisclosed. The project is based on a screenplay written by Eliza McNitt, a filmmaker best known for her work on documentary Artemis Falls and VR exhibition Fistful of Stars. Its production is handled by Protozoa Pictures, a company owned by renowned American filmmaker Darren Aronofsky known for Black Swan (2011) which landed him an Oscar nomination for directing.
The project is understood to still be heading to the Oculus Rift headset and its upcoming Oculus Go counterpart later this year as Facebook's subsidiary backed it with the goal of having it featured on its VR platform. CityLight's move to purchase its rights should lead to a wider release, though it's currently unclear whether Oculus will still enjoy a period of exclusivity. Besides the VR hardware maker, Spheres was also partially financed by Intel. In addition to the aforementioned talent, the project also attracted a number of other major names, all of which likely contributed to its successful sale. Texan electronic band Survive is responsible for the soundtrack which it will pen after receiving critical acclaim for its contributions to Netflix's hit series Stranger Things, whereas Golden Globe winner and multiple Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain will narrate the series.
VR filmmaking already started receiving some recognition in the industry, with Google's Pearl becoming the first such project ever to be nominated for an Oscar in early 2017. VR exhibition Carne y Arena authored by Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant) technically received its first Oscar last October, though the award was delivered in the form of a special statuette as the project doesn't fit into any of the Academy's existing categories. The development is still significant as it marks the first occasion on which a special Oscar was awarded to a filmmaking project since 1996 and Toy Story 1, with that particular milestone later leading to the creation of the Best Animated Feature category in 2001.