Virtual reality to hit AMC theaters

AMC Entertainment is investing at least $20 million in Dreamscape Immersive, a startup company creating what they call the “virtual reality multiplex.”

AMC agreed to finance the unveiling of the product in North America and in the United Kingdom. When it develops, virtual reality is expected to aid the movie industry by drawing people to theaters again.

Dreamscape Immersive has been working on the virtual reality multiplex for about a year and a half. Dreamscape is a VR storytelling studio that focuses on room-scale installations and real-time motion tracking.

When it is completed, Dreamscape Immersive locations will offer a selection of experiences, all of which allow up to six people to be in a virtual environment at the same time.

AMC agreed to invest $10 million in equity investment as well as a separate $10 million to the VR content fund, the company announced Tuesday.

Some of the Dreamscape locations will be in preexisting AMC theaters while others will stand alone.

Either way, six locations are planned to open in the next 18 months. In addition, a flagship location in Los Angeles’ Westfield Century City Mall is set to open in the first quarter of next year.

Tickets are expected to cost between $15 to $20, and each experience will be approximately 10 minutes long.

These virtual experiences are not intended to replace movies. Rather, they are meant to complement them. With the expansion of online streaming and shopping, movie theaters and malls are trying to find new ways to draw customers. The virtual reality multiplex is expected to be a way for them to do so.

AMC, the biggest cinema chain in the United States, lost half its market value this year. This is one of the many add-ons AMC and other theaters have offered customers in recent years, including luxury seating, fully-stocked bars and gourmet restaurants.

Numerous attempts at virtual reality experiences have failed, but Dreamscape Immersive is thought to be different because of how significantly technology has advanced.

Each experience will cost about $1.5 million to $2 million to produce. AMC’s hope is that once people are already at the movie theater for the virtual experience, they will stay for a movie as well.

Dreamscape plans on creating experiences that tie in to upcoming films and sporting events as well as producing original stories.

However, the company says that this new medium is one that is entirely different from movies. Its plan is to not just build on fan favorites, but to also create an entirely new experience.

The installation spaces are planned to be 16 by 16 feet and surrounded by a railing. Users will use headsets, gloves and some motion-tracking sensors.

Body-mapping technology will allow people to interact as full-body virtual avatars in a computer-generated environment.

Following these initial installations, Dreamscape plans to expand globally.

This deal brings the total investment in Dreamscape to over $40 million, including backing from director Steven Spielberg.