If you managed to get out to a movie during the Christmas break, you might have noticed another form of high-tech entertainment on display at the local movie theatre — virtual reality gaming.
That’s because Waterloo’s Ctrl V, Canada’s first virtual reality arcade, partnered up with Landmark Cinemas to bring it’s gaming experience to a wider audience.
It’s been a whirlwind seven months for the local company which is opening a new virtual reality arcade in Guelph and has an agreement in place to open eight more in western Canada.
Ryan Brooks, CEO of Ctrl V, said the potential of virtual reality game playing is being realized by big players, including movie chains, as well as Hollywood producers who see it as the next possible evolution in interactive movie experiences.
“I think people want to interact with their space, and we’re even seeing that more and more with some of the things that we’re offering that are experiential in nature. People say that’s cool, but their favourites games are always the ones they can interact with. I think that’s where Hollywood will get the most value, and I think theatres are going to need some type of platform to offer that.” — Ryan Brooks, CEO Ctrl V
Brooks said they approached Landmark Cinemas last January about a partnership before they opened up their first arcade at 170 Columbia St. W., in Waterloo. They wanted to see if a virtual reality arcade would complement the other entertainment opportunities the theatre provides, as movie chains make most of their money off the concessions.
“We thought Ctrl Vwould work on its own, but we also think it would be a great complement to what movie theatres offer,” said Brooks. “It’s been a long road because the concept wasn’t proven at the time, but we opened this place and people seemed to like the technology.
“So we did a pilot at this location (Landmark Cinemas at The Boardwalk) because it was the easiest for us to maintain and we wanted to see if there is that much of a demand for VR this close to our primary location.”
The feedback from the entertainment experiment, launched at the start of November during the busy holiday movie season, has been beyond their expectations said Brooks. People were given 10 minutes to experience a select number of games Ctrl V had to offer, but it was enough. They lined for the experience.
“So far it’s been fantastic,” said Brooks. “People have got a taste of the technology and know this is something they want to do more of.”
Brooks said he knows that some people might be reluctant to try the virtual reality gaming experience, wondering if it will cause motion sickness or headaches. Those are some of the common misconceptions.
HTC technology paired with their own management system software has received nothing but positive reviews.
“Our No. 1 question is how do we market this experience to someone who has never tried it,” said Brooks. “It’s the hardest thing because you can describe virtual reality, but until you put the headset on somebody they just don’t appreciate the level it’s at now.
“That’s the biggest advantage of that type of set up at the movie theatres. It’s part of the entertainment experience.”
Brooks said the trial run has also lead to a deal with Cineplex and a new experience the chain is developing in Edmonton called The Rec Room. It’s a concept that’s all about embracing new technology and making the movie theatre a go-to destination spot for the increasingly competitive entertainment dollar. Plus it gets people out of their basements for something experiential.
“They approached us a few months back and we got really fast traction with them,” said Brooks.
“We’ve got eight stations like this set up in their Edmonton location, and it’s been open since mid-November. “It’s been another good pilot for us as well.”
The plan is to franchise the Ctrl V virtual reality concept out, and it’s already picking up steam. They’ve started franchising without having to do external sales — word of mouth has pushed their brand forward.
Brooks said he thinks it will be bolstered by the direction he sees Hollywood taking in the future by adding interactive abilities to the movie-going experience through virtual reality. It’s going to put people right in the movies they watch.
“I know that Lionsgate (Entertainment Corp.) has already done a few experiments with it and the other studios are working on stuff for 2017,” said Brooks. “The question is how are they going to get those experiences into people’s hands?
“I think people want to interact with their space, and we’re even seeing that more and more with some of the things that we’re offering that are experiential in nature.
“People say that’s cool, but their favourites games are always the ones they can interact with. I think that’s where Hollywood will get the most value, and I think theatres are going to need some type of platform to offer that.”
To get a taste of VR, visit www.ctrlv.ca.