Compensating for a slow increase in film and TV revenue, virtual reality is predicted to become Hollywood’s next growth market.

A study from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) suggests the technology will soon go mainstream. Movie studios already are already working on first-person VR experiences allowing, for example, people to become an ape in Planet of the Apes or adopt Matt Damon’s character in The Martian.

Whilst Facebook-owned Oculus Rift retails for upwards of $500, cheaper VR headsets are available, and prices are only likely to fall. Options are also available via smart phone.
“There’s no iTunes for VR content now, but our forecast anticipates that sort of marketplace in about three years,” says PwC’s Christopher Vollmer.

Including VR in its annual Entertainment & Media Outlook forecast for the first time, PwC predicts a growth rate of 64% annually for the next five years. That would make the technology a $5 billion industry – in the US alone – by 2021. It will generate almost half as much as the cinema box office, which will grow at just 1.2% to $11.2 billion.

Start-ups such as Jaunt VR (featuring Disney as an investor), Within, Baobab and Penrose Studios are creating original VR short films and TV-style episodes. 21st Century Fox, which created FoxNext in January, is one of the most active participants. Its War for the Planet of the Apes production will be released in July.

“VR will continue to develop and be adopted at an accelerated rate,” predicts FoxNext VR studio general manager Brendan Handler. “It gives filmmakers an endless canvas to tell stories and offers consumers what they have been craving: more immersive experiences.”

Imax joins the VR party

Meanwhile Imax has introduced a concept where consumers sit in pods to watch short form content in a chair that moves and vibrates according to the action on screen. The Imax VR Experience Centres are located in Los Angeles and New York and offer content including Raising a Rukus, an animated series from The Virtual Reality Co, co-founded by Maleficent director Robert Stromberg.

Writing for the Hollywood Reporter/Variety, journalist Paul Bond notes Hollywood must still figure out is how to turn what is a solitary experience into a shared one. How true. Time to start thinking outside the headset.

Image courtesy IMAX VR Experience Centre

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