Futuristic cinema highlights VR’s resurgence in China
Virtual reality still big business in China
One cinema in Beijing is showing more than the latest blockbusters -- it’s showing movies in VR.
Er Dong Pictures showed off the newest addition to the ZYED Cinema on Wednesday. Built to look like the inside of a spacecraft, the room is over 200 meters long and has 20 chairs with VR headsets built in.
As you can see from the picture, those aren’t ordinary chairs. While a film is playing, Chinese state media says the chairs are capable of spinning, shaking and other “physical sensations.”
It's now showing six short VR films, with each spanning between five and fifteen minutes. Tickets for four films are priced at 38 yuan (US$6) and the other two at 78 yuan (US$12).
The six films include Shadows of Kurgansk, Raising a Rukus, The Dream Collector, Legend of the Sky, Free Whale and In the Pictures. While the first two are foreign imports, the rest are homegrown VR films.
The Dream Collector is one of four VR films which represented China at last year’s Venice Film Festival. It tells a story in which an old man and his dog scavenge in a junkyard and discover people’s forgotten dreams.
It comes at a time when VR is becoming popular again in China. Steven Spielberg’s film Ready Player One, which depicts a future rooted heavily in VR technology, is hugely popular in the country. It made US$500 million around the world so far -- with China alone accounting for US$200 million.
It’s not the first attempt to create a VR cinema in China. Many companies announced plans to build them in 2016, including Chinese retail giant GOME. And even IMAX said it would open a VR cinema in the country.
But the IMAX VR cinema never became a reality, and GOME’s faded after a few weeks of initial excitement.
While bigger VR installations may not have taken off, there’s still an interest -- just on a smaller scale. According to Xinhua, more than 2,000 smaller VR facilities opened for business in 2016 alone in China.