I know lots of things have been predicted to end movie theaters: TV, VCR, home theater systems, etc. The one thing theaters have had over home systems is the size of the screen. Even the most expensive home systems have a hard time competing. VR changes that.
With VR the size can be virtually any size and easily dwarf any real-life cinema. 3D is also built into the system so no extra stuff is needed to watch 3D films. It’s still early days and the experience is still not up to cinema standards but it’s getting there, and probably a lot sooner than people think.
People go to cinemas for the communal experience, not just the big screen. That’s not something really achievable via VR in any convincing way just yet. Though I can imagine scenarios where it may develop, it will be many years from now if at all.
Personally, I think Augmented Reality is a more practical and useful technology than Virtual Reality.
Maybe it’s my age but I’m pretty much done with the communal aspect of the cinema going experience. With the texting and the various odors and that one guy who laughs at every even remotely funny thing in a movie. The 15 to 20 minutes of trailers and ads is also something I can do without.
You are blind to your surroundings when wearing VR glasses, I admit. The Vive has cameras that track your movements in the virtual space. Maybe a future version can film and model things you hold in your hands and bring it into the virtual world.
Do you know of any studies about that? I personally only go to a theater for the big screen, if I could pay the same price and watch the movie alone or with just my date I’d be perfectly fine with it, and I know a lot of people who are the same way.
“With this headset, it’s just like you’re in the film. Out of the real world and 100% immersed! … And with this NEW upgrade, we’ll bring the real world with you into the film so you can see a virtual bag of popcorn and a virtual soda while you’re fully immersed!”
I don’t, though I’m sure they’ve been done. It’s mostly anecdotal.
I personally avoid cinema-going if I can, the home theatre experience has everything I could want in movie-watching, and more. Like you I also hate crowds and ads and the cloying stink of popcorn. At the moment the only two things that draw me into a cinema are the immediacy of wanting to see a movie everyone will be talking about, and 3D if that’s appropriate for a film (last one I saw in 3D was The Jungle Book, which was wonderful and just what 3D works best for).
VR movie watching may provide a “cinematic experience” in terms of simulating a big screen and tiered seating environment, with controllable 3D and surround sound, but that’s not much of an improvement to home viewing.
People who are going on a Tuesday afternoon when the theater is empty and prices are cheaper aren’t going for the communal experience, they are just going to see a movie on the big screen. But a lot of the people who go on Friday and Saturday night are there because they went with friends or on a date. I’d be very surprised if people stopped doing that in large numbers and instead hung out together and watched VR movies on their own separate headsets. If movies were a brand new invention, I could imagine that it would feel normal to sit together at home with headsets, but since people are used to watching movies at home and maybe chatting, or making fun of the movie, or pausing it to get more drinks, I think it would feel unnatural to watch VR at home with a group.
Also, how often do people watch movies or TV fully immersed in the world? When I’m at the theater, I’m immersed because of the big screen and sound and no distractions (unless someone around me is on their phone or talking or something.) But if I’m at home unless I’m watching something that’s fully absorbing or requires full attention, I’ll feel restless and start playing on my phone or folding laundry or painting or something. The VR imitates the theater but I would think it would still be on my mind that my phone is sitting by me and I have a pile of laundry in the other room and snacks in the kitchen. A lot of movie viewing is passive viewing.
As the technology gets better and cheaper, I’m sure it will become more widespread. I could see myself getting a headset if there’s one that becomes popular and cheap enough. But I’ll likely use it to watch movies like 2001 and The Fall and other things that need to be seen on the big screen. But for lots of movies where I want to watch something while I do something else, or watch something while hanging out with friends, I’ll likely continue to watch things on my TV. And for new releases that I can’t wait to see like the next Captain America movie, I’ll go see them at the theater rather than wait to watch them in VR.
The VR app I use to watch movies actually has a little bag of Popcorn sitting next to you. Staring at it opens the menu.
VR theatres are interesting. It’s easy to dismiss if you haven’t tried it. I don’t even have one of the serious setups, just a $40 headset and a high powered phone (LG G5). The comfort and pictures aren’t perfect yet, but it’s good enough to imagine that it will be within five years.
Even as it is, it’s a surprisingly good movie watching experience. Not quite Blu Ray quality but better than DVD, I’d say.
The theater environment does add some nice ambience, although you can also hide all that so it’s like being in a void with a big screen.
I don’t think VR is a death knell for theaters, because there’s a certain charm to a good cinema experience no headset will replace. And it is a SOLITARY experience. Going on a VR date will never be as fun without being able to look over and see how they’re reacting. Companies ARE working on making shared theater experiences, though.
VR COULD be a death knell for home theaters, though. I mean, people will still want a nice big screen in the living room to gather around, but those enthusiast home screening rooms movie geeks used to covet? It will be hard to justify.
It’s already changed my “dream house” plans, honestly. I could buy a high end PC, a full Vive rig, a comfy recliner, and top-notch earphones and still come out ahead on cost and needed space.
Call me skeptical but I think that, except for porn, VR will never get beyond a niche audience simply because your average person does not want to ‘strap-on’ anything like The Matrix just to watch a stupid movie. Even 3DTV is going nowhere fast as long as it requires wearing goofy glasses at home…
One of the things the Vive can do is track your head movements. I’d imagine it wouldn’t be impossible to create a soundscape that takes the position of your head, and ears, into account. That’s really all your hearing is; what ear receives the sound first and the position of your head. A high enough quality earphones and you’re sorted.