How Virtual Reality Entertainment Impacts Brands and Movies


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It's A New Movie Going Experience

Ever since the Stone Age, artists have constantly tried to include viewers in their perceptions of the world. It’s no surprise that modern artists and creators are attracted to Virtual Reality (VR) and its ability to transform simulations and experiences into a device.  And that includes movies.

In fact, the entertainment industry is intent on building a virtual reality experience that will bring viewers back into theaters to help raise box office ticket sales. From Amsterdam's 1st 360' VR cinema to Disney's new sensory air-jacket, to transitioning film production style, Virtual Reality is already being applied to entertainment today. In this blog, Hollywood Branded walks you through how Virtual Reality impacts brands and movies, and provides case study examples of virtual reality in action, while sharing why product placement opportunities are more important than ever.

Virtual Reality and Brands

Virtual Reality Is Part Of Your Life Already

In fact, 360’ video was just the beginning concept of virtual reality and now it’s a thing of the past. Major movie studios, like Disney, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros have been already been creating branded VR content and are soon-to be released at major film festivals as they are bringing it to life as we speak in this very moment! You may need to buckle up, and get ready for the hype because it’s arriving shortly in 2018.

With various industries such as healthcare, engineering, sports, business training programs and entertainment giving VR a chance, it’s more common in use than what you may think. In fact, the entertainment industry has been booming with hyped VR attraction and high expectations from masses around the world. Sounds hard to believe? You’re not the only one -- as imagining a theater filled with everyone with VR headsets sounds a little extravagant and frightening. Despite Hollywood’s theater industry being at its all-time low in terms of domestic revenue, we truly believe VR will save the day of movies. So, curious to find out how VR will affect entertainment?  Read on!

Movie Theatres Under Threat of Extinction

Remember reading about how traditional movie theaters are ‘dying out’, because of the easy accessibility of online streaming? Hollywood use to show “exclusive content” only in the movie theaters, which would result in millions of movie-goers in line with popcorn for the next box office hit. In fact, it was the norm in decades past to simply go out with family or a group of friends, stand in line, purchase a movie ticket, and watch a movie together for a socialized gathering for fun. However, it’s now more convenient to watch Netflix, Amazon, HBO or Hulu at the ease in your home. It’s on your home TV screen, your laptop, your iPad, it’s even on your phone -- what else would anyone need after that? Why bother going to the theater...

Let’s get to factual statistics. Hollywood domestic revenue is at its lowest, with the lowest ticket sales in 2017 since 1992. Movie theaters tried to fix this by pricing movie tickets higher.  So it's a surprising shock to see that domestic revenue still fell a whopping 2.7%, from $11.4 billion in 2016, to $11.1 billion in 2017.  This is despite phenomenal hits like Warner Bros DC Comic “Wonder Woman”, Universal Picture’s “Girl’s Trip”, Sony’s Marvel collaboration “Spider-Man: Homecoming”! LA Times reported the projected summer sales for 2017 at a disappointing $3.8 billion. It’s unfortunate to witness the movie culture dying so rapidly, year by year. 


More Money Loss For Movies

Only to add to the stress, a subscription service called ‘MoviePass’ launched in August 2017, but truly became sensational news earlier in 2018. It was chaos! For only $9.95 a month -- you got unlimited access to watch movies in certain theaters, quite popular as AMC and Regal Cinemas included. Their rules fluctuated from one movie every 24 hours, to no repeats of movies, or only 4 per month along with exceptions such as 3D movies are not ‘considered’ being a part of the deal because hey cost more. That was nevertheless, a brilliant tactic, to invite people back into the theater via a monthly subscription plan. Of course, how the company makes its profit is a different story for a different time -- but let’s just say it aimed to bring movie goers back, and it did.

Here’s what the CEO of Helios and Matherson (owner of MoviePass) had to say:

MoviePass is attracting people back to the movie theaters by lowering their cost, which we believe is transformational for the industry,” said Ted Farnsworth, chairman and chief executive officer of Helios and Matheson. “We believe the data MoviePass collects from these million and a half moviegoers will become an important asset to our partners and the future of the movie industry.”

What a deal! What an idea! We love the concept, after all if you do watch movies often -- you get a good bang for your buck. And if you don’t, well now’s your chance to pay less and watch a single movie a month. Whether MoviePass is long-lived or short-lasting, let’s now get down to business with VR, and how we believe it’s the red cape for the movie industry. 

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Virtual Reality's Grand Introduction -- What Is It & How Does It Work?

The ability of VR to trigger strong emotions and desire through our senses offers a unique approach to promotional tactics for movies. It’s still an evolving technology and will surely have major changes in the years ahead.

So What Is Virtual Reality?

Basically, VR is computer technology that's used to create a simulated environment in which you can interact in a 3D world. It's as if its a gatekeeper to the artificial virtual world that you are a part of! You can ride an 'imaginary' roller coaster, or be a part of a crime scene and fight the evil villains. With the headset on, no matter whichever direction you turn or wherever you look, you are present in that world.

However, don't get that mixed with augmented reality, which simulates artificial objects in the real environment, like Snapchat's filters that the public loves to play with.  Or Pokemon!

VR might just start rolling out into play in our everyday lives too.  VR will enable viewers to experience live movie-action instantly in a quick of an eye, with sensations of touch, smell, taste, sight, and sound! Watch the following video for a brief one-minute introduction to VR! 

Virtual Reality Tools To Make It Work

Mass market VR headsets, such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, are the magic tools for initiating live world experiences. The beginning rate for the Oculus Rife is $399, whereas the HTC Vive is $799! Yes -- it's quite pricey as it is the newest technology that exists. However, the more affordable Samsung's VR headset is priced at $129, as it's a smartphone supported headset. The gossip is that Apple may even come out with a Apple VR headset in 2020! 


I admit, this all sounds so futuristic! We've all seen or heard the implementation of VR in gaming and you may believe video gaming is the only suitable industry for this advanced technology. That however, has significantly changed as VR is used in business training programs to hire potential employees, the tourism industry (guided tours anywhere in the world), healthcare (an artificial operation!), automotive (testing out a car before building it), education, aerospace, finance, marketing, manufacturing and retail! The usage options are tremendous.  The film and entertainment industry has begun to leverage this technology to a phenomenal level thus far, and will continue to exceed viewers expectations beyond than what's ever existed. 

Virtual Reality Cinema Attracting Audiences Abroad 

The public was absolute astonished when Samhoud Media, known for a few 'pop-up' VR cinemas in the past, was responsible for the world's FIRST truly dedicated VR cinema that opened up in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Isn't that AMAZING!  An actual entire theater was set up for a virtual reality whole body immersive experience. 

The cinema featured 360' chairs in which you can spin in any direction, while being a part of all the action. Users were equipped with Samsung Gear VR, a Galaxy S6, and a pair of Sennheiser HD 201 headphones to enjoy during their deluxe experience. 50 individuals were able to go in at once, for a ticket priced at £10/US$14, for a movie that typically lasted half an hour. The movies were categorized under Horror, Fun, Adventure, and Documentary titles, providing options for all movie going tastes. With popcorn, and food also available, this 5 star experience featured nothing less than simple excellence! 

Watch this exciting video about Amsterdam's successful launch of the first VR Cinema! 



The Future Of Virtual Reality 

Though the development of VR is still in the making -- it makes us wonder what is ahead for the future. With more widespread VR cinemas, will the expected growth of movie-goers increase in popularity in the coming years? 

Jason Low, a senior analyst at Canalys, a tech-research firm that studies the space said:

“VR is a long-term game. Vendors must be well invested, established a well thought-out strategy to improve, grow and profit.” 

Getting familiar with the episodic journey of VR TV shows and feature films will happen -- but the technology will truly be successful once filmmakers master the art of connecting with viewers beyond the 360' flat screen format with virtual reality.

  • Will that mean that the actors will speak to you as a viewer on the screen?
  • Or does it mean you'll be treated as a character on screen?

We've seen that in video games, but in film it's a whole other concept. Actors will need to adapt, production style will need to be altered, award shows will be judged differently, and so many things not even thought of yet. The future will continue to reveal new developments. 

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Virtual Reality Making Bank at Film Festivals 

Oculus was given an amazing opportunity to showcase five VR-movies at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018! This was the fourth year of their showcase - showing Virtual Reality is not so new anymore. Five of these creations included 'Dispatch', 'Masters of the Sun', 'Space Explorers', 'Spheres', and 'Wolves in the Walls'. On their website, they launched advanced trailers for users to get hyped about and teasing the opportunity to attend the show to witness the full version! The Sundance Film Festival has A-list celebrities attend every year, including: Terry Crew, A$AP Rocky, Priyanka Chopra, Bella Thorne, Usher, John Legend, Jaden Smith, Robert Pattinson, Black Eyed Peas, and more!  

There were 20 distinct VR & augmented reality films at Tribeca Film Festival 2018.  One that really stood out was Vestige, a special documentary that goes through the experience of Lisa, the main character, as she remembers her lost significant other. Through living her memories, her lover's death, a haunting vision, and a whirlpool of emotions, the viewer experienced first-hand the wonders of VR. The film offered a unique approach to VR technology, providing the ability to connect with humans on grief and loss on a powerful VR medium. The multi-narrative storytelling premiere of Vestige impressed celebrities, by playing on their raw emotions. Take a look at what the celebrities experienced and see the list of movies that made in the top 20 under the VR category here

Cinema360, a theatrical program is the same concept of VR Cinema, and was added to the Tribeca Film Festival with content such as 'The Climate Change', 'It's Right Behind You', and 'Horizons'. Cinema360 was launched and active from April 20-28, 2018. Over those 9 days, several movies even portrayed real actors within the VR content, and that was a surprise to a few! Phew! 

Disney Making Major Moves In Virtual Reality

Walt Disney Studios have been known to always be way ahead of the game in all forms of technology, and they continue to own that legacy, as they are launching StudioLAB, an initiative to technology-driven experiences that are virtual reality-based. They plan to promote feature films from Pixar, Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Marvel and the stage plays via The Disney Music Group, and Disney Theatrical Group with the help of R&D expertise from Accenture Labs. Feel free to check out the Disney Movies VR website or their app, to see what content they've come up -- which is both compatible with the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift!

I'm sure most of you remember the adorable Disney movie "Coco". Wouldn't it be adorable to live through the journey of Miguel, as he runs his way through the musical celebration of Dia de Los Muertos? Well they made it happen. Disney created a short, trailer of their 'Coco VR' (available in the Oculus Store) that you can interact through with most of the characters in the film (Miguel, Coco, Ceci, Hector).  You can even take a gondola ride and see the city from above, live in the spotlight, and rock a new style in Ceci's costume shop, along with using the multi-player feature to play with your friends! VR technology is such a magnificent marketing tool for Gen Zers, millenials, Gen Xers and even Baby Boomers -- almost anyone who has access to VR! Click below to see the 'Coco VR' trailer.  

A great additional add-on to Disney's VR experience is the VR 'Force Jacket'! The research teams at Disney constructed a bizarre 'physical jacket' stuffed with airbags and sensors that imitates sensations near or around your body, to enhance your virtual world. Imagine snakes slithering all over you, receiving a hug, or getting punched! Of course it's just a prototype for now, but it's nice to witness the creative process while Disney is at it! Check it out below!  

The Next Step... Product Placement In Virtual Reality

While movie studios are transitioning into virtual reality, brands need to be aware of the opportunity to become part of content that is truly engaging, as it provides users with a whole new level of experience.  From smells and tastes, to touches and temperature changes, the landscape of product placement opportunities in incredible for savvy marketers.

A Honeybaked ham on screen could be accompanied with a pleasing smell of sweet baked goodness. The smell of a fresh roasted cup of Maxwell House coffee wafts through the air.  The theater's drop in temperature in the snow scene, can make you wish you had the actor's jacket. We really can't even begin imaging the sensory opportunities -- but they are there.

In the meanwhile, before it comes to that full body experience, just having your brand be in the story line or in the scene, when viewers are so incredibly engaged, will only make your product stand out all the better.

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What To Expect From Virtual Reality In The Near Future

Have no fear, VR will help save the entertainment industry, as our team firmly believes the advancement of technology will only result in a rapid growth of the entertainment industry. According to Huntington Post, there is an estimated value of $36 billion that VR market can reach by 2026! A market with this significant potential could change the world, and how humans perceive that world. 

Check out our previous blog on PVOD:  How To Watch Movies From Home While Still In Theater, which elaborates on premium video on demand, and how that already has altered movie theaters. 

But wait! There's more! Below we've listed blogs of similar content that you may also want to check out! 

Click on the image below to check out our Product Placement 101 Guide that provides an in depth look at how to partner with content (aside through Virtual Reality of course!)

Product Placement & Co-Promotions 101 Guide