In many cinema complexes across the UK, the smell of popcorn and cola are joined by the sounds of buzzing game arcades and pins falling in bowling alleys.
In recent months there has been a change brewing, as VR enters the arena where cinemas were once king. Substance Global attended CineEurope last week where there was debate over whether dedicated VR experience centres were friend or foe to the cinematic experience and challenged the industry’s attempts to retain theatrical customers.
IMAX VR has launched in New York and Los Angeles, with their next centre due to arrive in the UK at Manchester’s buzzing Old Trafford area later this year. Offering cinematic scale VR with content that spans daredevil experiences (such as tight rope walking along city skylines) through to bespoke experiences from film partnerships with Star Wars and John Wick, these centres are targeting both gaming and film audiences and giving them that all-encompassing thrill ride.
The overwhelming feeling at CineEurope this year, at least from IMAX’s President Global Sales, Don Savant, is that these centres are enhancing the public’s love of the cinema experience, film and the environments that this medium has brought to us over the years. By targeting fans with this VR content, an upscale in cinema tickets has been seen in their associated cinema venues and IMAX are dedicated to offering the biggest and best experiences to its customers and to fans of these worlds.
France’s mk2 VR are another pioneer in dedicated permanent space VR venues, with centres beyond their homeland in the works across the globe. Modern and light open spaces with trendy bar areas, they make for a stylish setting to complement their modern tech appeal. They claim that content is their key driver in offering audiences great experiences and in addition to their own experiential content have been working with EA and Ubisoft to create immersive content from their game franchises. They wish to work with film makers to offer further content and excite audiences. It feels very much that the role of the visionaries and directors is now wanted by VR teams, their ideas and worlds still very much the inspiration and holy grail of content to excite consumers.
With home VR systems struggling in some markets to make a real impact, these new centres, the modern take on the arcade and bowling alley at your local UK cinema complex, will look to break the mould in enticing audiences to make more of their cinema trips, give enhanced cinematic experiences and work to unite audiences with the films they showcase.
As film makers continue to strive to bring consumers into the worlds they create, we feel that these VR additions can only excite and entice movie fans further, and crucially retain interest in visiting the cinema. It is the film world and the cinematic experience that inspires the content and by combining the two mediums, fans are simply getting more of what they love.
Kayleigh Watson – Account Director