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VR's impact on Hollywood

January 2018

Video gaming was only the first step in virtual reality’s developmental growth. As the technology grows, the services that we can hope to enjoy with it will follow.


We can’t exactly foresee the impact VR will have on Hollywood, theater experiences, or on-demand home entertainments. But there will be an impact, that’s for certain.
 

IMAX VR is already here in Los Angeles and New York, offering immersive VR experiences in 350 sound that features room-tracking technology with the most advanced headsets available. Studios have already begun to look ahead, creating content accompanying their tent-pole productions. The IMAX VR experiences don’t currently have full length features that you would see at your local theater, but VR experiences can place you in the middle of Paranormal, The MummyStar Warsand more! 
 

If you look back 20 years ago, IMAX seemed like such a rarity with only a few films shot in IMAX film and very few theaters willing to build the state of the art theaters. But today, IMAX theaters are everywhere and studios are embracing the high price points of IMAX tickets and the high experience production each viewing offers. So although there may be a few years before further investment falls through, we’re already witnessing company’s pour into their R&D to brace for the future demand. One company, Positron, has already developed the world’s first full-motion chair for cinematic virtual reality. With patents pending, Positron is already dropping names and turning up the hype by quoting Fox News’ commentary via their website on how VR cinema is now a commercially viable format for theater investment. What resembles a futuristic chair Neo would use to hop into The Matrix is the culmination of years of collaboration between filmmakers and engineers that produced Voyager. Only a limited amount of units can be leased for premiers, film festival, and private events, but the company has already caught the attention of Universal Studios, IMAX, Intel, and those bold enough to preorder.
 

IMAX and Google have entered a joint venture to build cinema-grade cameras to begin developing the production relationships needed with filmmakers and studios to produce IMAX VR experiences that you could attend at your local theater. As for the present, over $50 million has been raised with a focus on location-based content distributed within 1,200 IMAX theaters. IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond spoke in this interview with Fortune on the future of VR living side by side with in-home VR experiences, 
 

“I think they can both exist side-by-side. If there’s a blockbuster movie, you’re going to want to see it in IMAX, then you’ll see it in your home. If it’s not a blockbuster, you might skip an IMAX and just see it in your home. To give you an example, if there’s a big Star Wars movie coming out and you have the chance to fly the Millennium Falcon in a cheaper way than you could afford in the home, you’re going to do it. I think you might then buy [a VR headset] and do it in your home later.”
 

Although VR is only supplemental to larger production plans, discussions are in place about the future possibilities of VR’s role in tomorrow’s films. But Gelfond brought up an interesting segue, what about in-home, on-demand VR features?
 

Let’s take a break from entertainment and talk about the impact VR can have on daily life. In March of 2017, Lowe’s introduced Holoroom How To, a VR clinic where homeowners can tune in to learn more about home improvement and home project skills. In an effort to help their customers be more confident in their DIY projects, Lowe’s developed a VR clinic where their customers can put on the VR headset and immerse themselves into a hands on project with step by step instructions. The same technology is also currently pursued by the medical industry, not for home improvement, but to save lives and develop the next generation of health care professionals.
 

“During the past three years, we have been exploring real-life applications of augmented and virtual reality experiences to directly help our customers solve everyday problems…Our experience has shown that customers are embracing AR/VR as part of their home improvement journey, and now, we are using immersive VR to help our customers learn the required skills to complete challenging home improvement projects.” – Kyle Nel, Executive Director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs.
 

But back to movies and TV, meet CineVRa streaming service that allows you to enter a VR theater with friends to watch premium HD movies, 3d movies, local TV shows, and more. The movies and shows aren’t viewable in 360 mode just yet, but CineVR is working hard to creatively craft a social way for you and friends to literally experience a movie. Disney Movies VR is another option for on-demand VR content, showcasing a new development between Disney and Oculus.  As users wait before full feature VR films are developed, you can download the app to visit themed worlds, scenes, and interactions from Disney, Marvel, and Luscasfilm projects.
 

VR will not only disrupt the markets as the technology continues to develop, but will surely disrupt and change the art and craft of filmmaking and acting as well. How can an actor break the fourth wall when their audience is virtually in the same room as them? With developing technologies, actors and filmmakers will have to think through a new dimension, where we can only imagine must be the most terrifying challenge for any cinematographer. Director of photographers aren’t just working to create the perfect shot, because VR won’t just show us one perfect shot on a silver screen, no, audiences will now be fully present in every single angle and shot imaginable.
 

Hollywood even has a new job, VR operator, to help think about the audiences that are going to immerse themselves into the productions. As the relationship between game-engine developers and filmmakers continue to grow, so does the relationship between VR and Hollywood. VR is certainly going to be a game changer, posing an inherent question in asking is this even worth it? Certainly, we’ll find out if in 20 years we shift from saying I just saw that to, I was just there.