The summer movie season ended on Labor Day weekend, and ticket sales in the US fell to its lowest level in 25 years.
Reasons for the drop have been attributed to pricey movie tickets, a dearth of new creative content and heavy competition from streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Blame aside, theater owners are being forced to innovate in order to attract customers, and one LA tech startup is hoping to resuscitate the flagging movie theater industry by turning to virtual reality.
Dreamscape Immersive wants to install up to six “VR centers” in cinemas and as standalone locations in the US by mid-2019. The company announced this week that its flagship location will be located at the Westfield Century City Mall, and is slated to open next year.
The VR outfit, in addition to locking in $20 million from AMC, also has backing from some of Hollywood’s biggest players, including Steven Spielberg, Warner Bros. and MGM.
What are the challenges of bringing VR to the cineplex? Considering the history of customers’ hesitancy towards virtual reality, how are audiences predicted to respond? If successful, could VR end up benefiting the theater industry at the cost of the movie industry?
Bruce Vaughn, CEO of Dreamscape Immersive, a location-based virtual reality startup in LA
Brent Lang, senior film and media reporter at Variety; he tweets @BrentALang