Interest in VR cinema and VR movie theaters has surged, but relatively few VR movie theaters have actually been launched. One of the pioneers in bringing VR movies to theaters is Amsterdam-based Samhoud Media. The company opened a permanent VR theater in Amsterdam this March called “The VR Cinema,” which has drawn “over 50,000 visitors” since its launch,” according to Jip Samhoud, the company’s founder. The theater has generated “great audience excitement” about VR , which he attributes to the fact that most of them have had “their first VR experience” at the theater. In fact, one of the primary benefits of VR theaters is that they make VR accessible to “everybody,” eliminating the need for consumers to purchase expensive hardware, notes Samhoud.
The theater has attracted a very diverse audience, including “grandparents with children and couples,” reports Samhoud. The “average age of patrons at the theater is 35-40.”
The theater refreshes its films once a month, and offers diverse content packages, including horror films, animations, and documentaries. According to Samhoud, horror films are the most popular films at the theater, followed by animations. Interestingly, documentaries at the theater have generated “many repeat visits,” he reports. Shows at the theater run 30 minutes long, and typically include two or three films. Audiences are charged 12.50 euros (approximately $15) per show. In Samhoud’s view, this price is “comparable to prices for traditional films.”
Pop-up theaters are playing a key role in acclimating consumers to VR films and VR in general. They’ve certainly been a linchpin in Samhoud’s VR theater strategy. The company opened its first pop-up theater in Amsterdam last October, and ran VR films in a Berlin pop-up theater from March to May this year. The company also ran VR films in a pop-up theater in Copenhagen in June.
He acknowledges that the shortage of quality VR content remains one of the key stumbling blocks to the growth of VR theaters. He expects VR theaters to become prevalent in “all big cities” in the next 3-5 years. He acknowledges that “finding the right content” for VR theaters is a “major challenge.” At the moment, he feels the films shown at this theater are “fine,” but he concedes that in two or three years, “better content will be needed” to continue attracting audiences.
Samhoud underlines the need for producers to gain a better grasp of the special attributes and qualities of VR, and for an increasing supply of “VR-exclusive content.” At the same time, Samhoud believes that the coming expansion of VR theaters will help spur increased production of VR content. Increasingly, film producers are gravitating toward VR, as it represents “a new storytelling medium,” he notes.
Samhoud Media plans to expand its theaters to such locations as London and Oslo and has received significant interest from organizations seeking to partner with the company or franchise their theaters in such locations as China and Lebanon.