Virtual reality (VR) is characterized by its capacity to intensely engage users in myriad contexts—whether used for travel simulation, improved communication, or, of course, entertainment. Toronto will get a taste of VR’s cinematic potential with North America’s first VR movie theatre, Vivid. From July 16–September 11, the Milk Glass Co. event space will host a pop-up VR “experience centre”, where 20 audience members at a time will don the futuristic headsets for an immersive, reality-bending program.
To begin, three short films—official selections from the Tribeca, Sundance, and Cannes festivals—explore the use of 360 degree visibility in order to fully envelope the viewer in new worlds they can look around, naturally. Each short film showcases a different aspect of the VR experience, says Vivid co-founder Gary Tam. For Vivid’s first month, the 40-minute program (including a brief tutorial on the equipment’s usage) features Sonar, a suspenseful exploration of a computer-generated deep space environment; Imago, taking the literal point of view of a dancer who has lost the ability to move or communicate; and The Visitor, a love story that experiments with the use of physical space and location. (Come mid-August, a new trifecta of programming will begin).
“Virtual reality is a major change in storytelling and in filmmaking,” Tam says. “The way that we’re able to be immersed in the story and to experience more of the story itself, this is the next evolution, the next step.”
If the pop-up proves successful, Tam and his team plan to establish Vivid as a permanent theatre. Tam also hopes that by seeing a means of distribution for VR, larger movie studios will be encouraged to take on projects using the up-and-coming medium. “It’s kind of a ‘the chicken or the egg’ situation where a lot of the bigger movie studios aren’t necessarily creating [VR] content yet,” he says. “We’re working with short films from indie movie studios, and they’ve created films purely for, I believe, more of an art purpose.” One wonders if Vivid could offer a glimpse into the future of mainstream cinema.