Independent Theaters Testing Virtual Screenings

Before you get super excited by the words “virtual theater” (like me), as some are billing it, the reality is it is essentially $12 VOD for movies that should be showing in independent theaters. If they weren’t closed.

The title to the theater shown above, “virtual screenings”, is more apt.

Though some “virtual theater” screenings began rolling out around March 20, the weekend of March 27 has the first full crop of movies available to watch, from slick noir to sardonic comedies to repertory titles from the 1970s to Oscar nominees. If you’re looking to see something new and exciting this weekend — and support independent theater at the same time — then here are 15 options available right now.

15 movies you can buy a “virtual ticket” to this weekend – Vox

The problem with this idea is it goes only part of the way. It’s not as virtual as even very dated tech currently currently allows.

What about an Oculus virtual reality app version of your theaters? Oculus/Facebook where are you right now? See: Watching Movies on Oculus Go

What these independent theater owners should be doing is personalizing the movie watching experience. How about scheduled watch-a-longs where a host has a chat during the virtual screening (see: 2nd Annual Halloween Mystery Movie Event Features 4 Shudder Movies)? Or maybe, the ability for a 3D virtual panoramic tour of your independent theater, choose your seat and then the movie plays, a la Second Life theaters.

Virtual Reality 3D Theaters emulate the social experience of the movie theater

The other part of this that is undesirable is the theater owners should already have been doing this. Waiting for the pandemic makes the “virtual screening” pitch seem — and probably is — desperate. If they were embracing virtual reality all along, including handicapped and disabled patrons who cannot as easily attend regular screenings, then this promotion of their virtual theater now would be more genuine and worthwhile. They would be supporting those moviegoers who wanted to come more often to their theater but weren’t as easily able to do so.

So, that’s why I think simply making movies available for VOD at $12 a rental and labeling them “virtual screening” just doesn’t go far enough.

I’m not a theater owner, but giving all of them this free advice: start investigating this tech and embracing it into your business ASAP. Make your patrons feel like the theater is still open, the lifeblood is there, the only thing missing are brand new wide release movies (and you should be plotting and planning to get those pictures screening — like Trolls World Tour that’s coming this Friday, yes, how about a Trolls World Tour viewing party?!).

Good business ideas are out there begging to be grabbed by the creative, the innovative, the wise. Those independent theater owners have a chance at surviving the pandemic.

The virtual playbook already exists. This might be one time where forced social distancing promotes virtual reality as an opportunity it’s never experienced before.

Virtual Screenings – what do YOU think?

Would/will you support your local independent theater through virtual screenings? Or do you, like me, think $12 (or so) VOD rentals, even when the theater gets to keep a meatier chunk of the ticket sale, isn’t quite enough in 2020?

4 thoughts on “Independent Theaters Testing Virtual Screenings

    1. This is true. I wonder if more will embrace technology after this instead of thinking their business won’t change with the world. The strong will survive, and those who think nothing ever changes will go out of business in place of other businesses willing to embrace change.

      Liked by 1 person

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