Virtual reality is one of those concepts that science fiction properties have loved to toy with over the years. Between The Matrix and Tron, the idea of a computer-generated reality has captured our imagination with its infinite possibilities, and the idea of immersing oneself in a fabricated world for entertainment has seemed like a far-off concept -- until now. In fact, it looks like reality has finally started to catch up to science fiction, because AMC Entertainment is now investing in virtual reality for some of its multiplexes.
AMC has officially started to invest in a new venture to bring virtual reality to the moviegoing experience. Called Dreamscape Immersive, the VR-based startup has received $20 million in financing to create several Dreamscape Immersive VR Centers built into AMC theaters in North America and Europe over the next year and a half. Per a new report from THR, the first of these centers will open in Los Angeles and is expected to start bringing in crowds in early 2018.
As for content, it sounds like these Dreamscape locations will provide a mixture of purely original work and franchise material. The startup has reportedly already green-lit its first piece of original VR programming, and conversations are underway with major studios to license out well-known brands for adaptation in the burgeoning entertainment format. AMC has reportedly planned to invest $10 million in the development of VR content, so it seems reasonable to assume that there will be a wide variety of experiences to choose from when it all comes together.
The inclusion of VR at a movie theater represents the latest in a long line of innovations geared towards generating better attendance for cinemas. Despite the fact that the last few years have seen box office records absolutely shattered by some big blockbusters, the overall graph charting theater attendance is arguably pretty depressing for fans of the theater experience. To combat the numerous causes of this decline, theaters have started implementing various changes, ranging from alcohol sale to improved food options and better seating.
It will undoubtedly prove interesting to see how popular these Dreamscape centers become as they make their way to cinemas. While the technology shows quite a bit of promise for fans of the medium, some people in the film industry (such as James Cameron) have historically seemed somewhat skeptical about its potential for full immersion. Dreamscape's model is slightly different from prior VR models, however, because the plan is to allow up to six different users to interact with one another in these virtual environments.
That said, based on these early reports, it does not sound like you will need to strap on a VR headset when you enter a traditional silver screen theater. These VR centers will merely be alternative rooms built into existing theaters, or standalone locations completely separate from the theaters themselves. If you are a purist, your traditional entertainment format does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Although this virtual reality moviegoing experience feels like something pulled straight out of The Matrix or Minority Report, we still have plenty of traditional moviegoing on the horizon, as well. To keep yourself in the loop on anything and everything set to debut over the next year, check out our 2017 movie premiere guide and our 2018 movie premiere guide.