After the announcement of Disney’s latest VR entry, the Power United VR, we can confidently say that Hollywood’s biggest studios are all betting on virtual reality, just that the degree of involvement varies. With the box office growing slowly and the pay-TV landscape in flux, studios feel like they can’t miss out on what could be a big part of the future of filmed entertainment. So, in this week’s blog let’s take a look at where the big six studios stand when it comes to the adoption of Virtual Reality.
20TH CENTURY FOX
Twentieth Century Fox is probably the studio which is most excited about virtual reality and has formed a dedicated division for video gaming, location-based entertainment, virtual and augmented reality productions called FoxNext earlier this year. Fox’s “The Martian VR Experience” was the first foray into the technology from any of the major studios, followed by one tied to “The Revenant” re-creating the experience of being attacked by a bear. Later in the year, Fox unveiled a VR experience tied to its “Alien: Covenant” film, titled “Alien: Covenant In Utero,” where the user was transported inside a womb alongside a Neomorph, a white-headed creature new to the movie that is born when alien spores are released from pods and enter people’s bloodstreams — before the creature burst from the body in disgustingly impressive fashion.
FoxNext has also partnered with VR studio within to develop more VR experiences tied to some of its big franchises, with new “Planet of the Apes” slated for the fourth quarter and “Alien” on deck for the first half of 2018. Both of these will be for sale across various platforms, including the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The studio is also developing an “Alien” free-roam VR experience, where users can move around a large, dedicated open space.
Warner Bros. has also embraced high-end wired VR. The studio made VR a major part of the marketing strategy for a movie that seems to be perfectly suited for it, Steven Spielberg’s upcoming sci-fi film “Ready Player One,” which takes place inside a virtual reality game. The studio partnered with HTC Vive to produce multiple pieces of VR content that will be available on a variety of platforms from the premium-priced, PC-based Vive to mobile headsets. Vive will also bring its “Ready Player One” experiences to its Viveport Arcade platform for location-based entertainment. Prior to this, the studio rolled out a “Batman: Arkham VR” video game, which turned out to be the first available for PlayStation VR and extended to Vive and Oculus. In addition to this, the studio has also signed a co-financing deal with IMAX in March to develop three VR experiences, two of which will be tied to “Justice League and “Aquaman.”
Sony unveiled an experience for its recent comic-book hit “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which allows all you desperate-to-be Spideys to practice their web-shooting skills and swing above New York. The VR experience, produced by Sony Pictures Virtual Reality and developed by CreateVR, came out June 30 — and is available for free on the Vive, Oculus and PlayStation VR. The studio also has what’s essentially a slate deal with VR firm Madison Wells Media, and the two have an exclusive partnership to create original, stand-alone VR experiences related to specific Sony titles, including “Passengers: Awakening VR,” released in March and featuring the voice of big-screen “Passengers” star Chris Pratt.
Apart from this, the studio has also produced VR projects for “The Walk,” “Ghostbusters,” and “Goosebumps.”
Universal has probably received more buzz for its VR experience tied to Tom Cruise’s “The Mummy” than for the film itself. The project, which premiered at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, was the result of a collaboration between the studio and 5th Wall, an agency specializing in VR, AR and 360-degree video services. In Austin, viewers were escorted into a fully staged airplane hanger and seated in a hydraulic chair from Positron that mimicked the movements of the “Mummy” experience as they unfolded in an Oculus Rift. The content was a behind-the-scenes look at the film’s buzziest scene — an escape from a crashing plane shot in zero-gravity. The experience rolled out in cinemas in the U.S. and abroad, where the box office numbers fared much better for the film.
Prior to this, 5th Wall and Universal had also partnered for an experience built around “Fifty Shades of Grey,” where users could tour title character Christian Grey’s expensive apartment in 360-degree video — including his notorious “red room” full of BDSM toys.
And as we said in our last blog, Disney is big on wearable entertainment. Even though they really don’t need a push by virtual reality to sell its films, some of their franchises “Star Wars” are natural fits for VR, and there’s a “Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine” experience available for free on the Vive. The house which held us with its famous mouse is also using VR for other engaging purposes like cheering up sick kids. “Star Wars: Force For Change,” developed by Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB, will debut in late 2017, is described as a “physical program geared toward entertainment and distraction purposes for use with children” that incorporates exclusive “Star Wars” content. It will be sent to children’s hospitals and similar facilities across the country.
And just a couple weeks ago, Disney announced a new VR game developed with Oculus, “Marvel Powers United VR,” which is set to hit the Rift exclusively in 2018 — and will be an interesting test of Disney’s ability to monetize its IP, which has been so successful in basically every other medium, in virtual reality. You can read more about the Marvel Powers United VR, here.
While we already have some upcoming VR projects in line by the big studios, it will be interesting to hear about their future plans to outnumber other studios in this “virtual” race. So, for all the updates from the VR world, keep coming back; because we are where VR is!