Spielberg Looks to Grow Virtual Reality Business With Retail Experience

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Virtual Reality Mall Movie Theater

A new venture backed by director Steven Spielberg and three studios has raised $11 million to launch its first virtual reality storefront at a Los Angeles mall by the end of this year—with plans for a wider rollout next year. The goal is to boost VR and retail, merging the virtual and real worlds in order to stimulate consumer interest in the future of entertainment and shopping.

With Spielberg’s longtime producing partners Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald involved and Disney veteran Bruce Vaughn as CEO, the first Dreamscape Immersive mall-based VR experience is expected to last about 10 minutes each and cost a little over $1 million to produce, reports The Wall Street Journal. Tickets, however, will only cost $15 to $20 to rival movie ticket prices and remain affordable.

Dreamscape Immersive will let up to six people at a time interact in a single VR environment using 16 cameras and sensors on participants’ hands and feet with technology developed by Swiss firm Artanim.

Looking to woo people back to shopping malls, the venture hopes to spur familiarity with—and adoption of—VR as a form of entertainment, whether as multi=player gameplay or a Hollywood-backed interactive production. The partnership is also notable as most studios are still looking to outside companies to produce VR project, such as the Disney-backed Jaunt and Warner Bros. investment in Magic Leap.

“Studios and shopping centers have the same challenge, to create experiences that draw people in,” Parkes told The Wall Street Journal. “That overlap is where we saw an opportunity.” Parkes, a former DreamWorks chief, has a long list of producer credits to his name such as Gladiator, Awakenings and Catch Me If You Can.

IMAX Virtual Reality

Dreamscape’s investors include Warner Bros., 21st Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. (MGM), IMAX, venture capital firm Bold Capital Partners and mall chain Westfield Corp. Dreamscape could potentially work with Hollywood directors to create original experiences or tied to a movie release.

IMAX recently opened its first out-of-home VR arcade in Los Angeles. However, noted IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond, “We think it’s wise to diversify our bets because there are going to be a lot of winners in this space.”

The startup’s retail locations offer several “pods” combining interaction with other people and objects and future goals include uses in military and medical training, communications and tourism.

“What’s similar is we’re creating shared experiences and transporting people to worlds that otherwise only exist in their imaginations,” said Dreamscape CEO Bruce Vaughn. “What’s different is we’re not building bricks and mortar and walls that you can’t change your mind about.”

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