IMAX Corporation and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment recently announced a new virtual reality (VR) partnership to develop and release three premium, interactive VR experiences based on Warner Bros. Pictures’ most anticipated upcoming films. Justice League—opening in November—will be the first film getting the VR treatment under the exciting new collaboration.
We spoke with Jessica Schell (pictured), executive vice president and general manager at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment about what VR is and how it will enhance the movie-going experience and beyond.
For the uninitiated, explain the VR user experience as it relates to Justice League.
This is a new form of storytelling. We see it as a developing art form that enriches fan engagement with our films, allowing Warner Bros. to create both incredible marketing assets and also new revenue streams. We can now create cinematic experiences that put people into our films and immerse them in our storylines, on our sets, and alongside our characters. We can bring our fans into the world of the movies they love in ways we’ve only dreamed about before. While still being refined, the premise for the Justice League VR piece is a unique story accompanying the film with rich experiences based on the superpowers and abilities of members of the Justice League with a level of immersion that will thrill fans.
Who do you envision as the user of this new VR technology?
Our goal is to reach all the fans of our franchises! The VR market appears to be headed for an inflection point as consumer interest is accelerating and headsets are gaining mainstream traction. In addition to the multiple home-based more immersive VR platforms, such as PlayStation VR, Vive, Oculus, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Daydream, users can also access less robust VR content on inexpensive viewers like Google Cardboard. And while the in-home market is still growing, IMAX’s experience centers will help us expand our reach to people who have not yet had a VR experience or do not own the hardware to experience high quality VR at home.
What kinds of other VR content can users anticipate from Warner Bros?
As custodians of some of the world’s most compelling and well known intellectual property (IP), Warner Bros. aims to take a leadership position in the developing cinematic virtual reality, augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality market. Virtual reality has proven to be a powerful marketing tool, and through our marketing executions we’ve grown our studio’s expertise. Our further goal is to harness VR and AR into fully realized new revenue streams, whether as an adjacent experience to our movies, or even an enhanced overlay to a full-length movie that becomes the next evolution of home entertainment for film. To that end, Warner Bros. is developing a slate of promotional and transactional VR entertainment experiences based on our most compelling IP which will be released across multiple VR platforms.
Specific examples of additional upcoming VR initiatives include a greatly enhanced update of the previously released Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them VR marketing experience, which features new beasts, environments and spells; a “Batmersive 360 VR Experience” for The LEGO Batman Movie; and an immersive VR experience for one of the most seminal works foreshadowing a future of VR, Ready Player One, a feature directed by Steven Spielberg coming in 2018, in conjunction with Warner Bros. theatrical marketing, Interactive Entertainment, and HTC Vive.
How have users reacted to the IMAX VR Centre in LA and how does VR fit into the overall theater-going experience?
The response has been amazing and our IMAX partners are excited to roll out more experience centers in the US and in other markets. Having theaters and VR co-located will add to the excitement of going to the theater and gives fans a way to extend their cinematic experience, which will be great for movie going. Location-based VR adjacent to theaters is also a great way to introduce this technology to moviegoers who love our content. What’s even more exciting about the IMAX experience is that they can make the experience even more immersive by adding 4D elements.
What’s the coolest VR experience you’ve had personally?
Great question. There have been many experiences we have demoed to see just how far we can go with the technology. Fox created an early VR piece for The Martian that was a proof of concept, putting the user in the film, and Star Wars has a VR experience called Trials on Tatooine where not only are you in part of the scene with gorgeous visuals, you also are given the chance to wield a light saber, I also think you should check out the VR for the International Space Station called Mission: ISS if you have a chance; it actually makes you feel weightless! Closer to home, Warner Bros. has some very cool behind-the-scenes 360 pieces for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them that make you feel like you are right there on the set shooting the movie.
The adrenaline rush of our Suicide Squad experience is hard to match, or you can feel terrified walking through the house from Conjuring 2 and experiencing your own visions.