Paramount is banking on a previous hit to launch cutting-edge VR technology.
In Paramount’s latest efforts to keep up with the rise of streaming movies, they are launching a virtual reality movie theater experience. Starting December 29th at 6:00 P.M. you can meet friends in the virtual theater “lobby” and watch films from the comfort of your couch while having a theater-like experience. However, the movie they are offering isn’t as new as the technology they are testing out. Paramount is banking on the popularity of a previous hit, Tom Cruise’s 1986 hit Top Gun, now in 3D.
The studio is teaming up with Bigscreen, Microsoft, Samsung, and other tech companies to test out the new experience that brings moviegoers as close to the theater experience as possible without actually going there. The free download of the program is only available to those with supported VR devices like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, all SteamVR-compatible headsets, and all Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Nothing has battled the pay-per-view streaming business that many think is killing the theater business quite like this, using the cutting edge technology in partnership with a huge studio like Paramount.
The program will offer the option to watch with friends and even meet them in the “lobby” before the movie. You can use theater-like seating and even have to sit through trailers like a theater as well. Tom Hayes at Paramount is very optimistic when it comes to the possibilities this new collaboration could bring. He told Deadline in November, “Paramount wants to be where the consumers are and the media landscape is changing and we want to be as vanguard as possible. We have to make the theaters a bigger and better experience. Jim G [Paramount chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos] is a progressive thinker, and we want to get out front and see where audiences want to go. There is quite a cultural difference between high-tech and Hollywood. Here we are testing something that is a page turner in the history of media.”
This comes with the assumption that many still want the aspects of the theater experience Bigscreen is offering, such as picking your seats and sitting through trailers. The streaming services battling theaters offer better accessibility at a cheaper cost and it will be difficult to beat that if the big screen doesn’t offer something different than theaters or streaming services alike. Hayes has a solution to that problem as well, “It launches a possible new platform for the film business,” Hayes said to Deadline. “Obviously, you can add all sorts of bonus content with the filmmakers Q&A, games, trivia, for example, afterward. There’s no limit to what we can do.”
The film they chose to test out seems outdated compared to the aim of the program, moving on from the former success of Hollywood blockbusters of the past and looking to the future of the industry. Top Gun, a classic in many ways, feels like a safe bet when it comes to drawing audiences into using the VR program with something familiar.
Despite the optimism Hayes has for the program, their decision contradicts the film they chose to begin the process. It doesn’t offer anything necessarily new. Top Gun is available in 3D on Bluray already. Showing a film many people consider as classic rather than a newer film feels like the company is still banking on the outdated system they are trying to move past with Bigscreen. Perhaps the safe choice will open the option and they will move on to newer films later on if it is successful, but it would be a shame to see something so cutting edge to fail just because no one cares to see a movie from the 80s with virtual reality. It would have been a smarter move on Paramount’s part to release a new film, one that represents the future of filmmaking as much as the program wants to represent the future of entertainment.
The program is launched on the 29th and Top Gun will play every 30 minutes for anyone with supported devices.