Virtual reality is still a difficult sell, so some of the industry’s most promising plans involve putting it in places people already congregate — including movie theaters. From December 2nd to January 1st, AMC theaters in Austin, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco will be showing a VR experience based on the upcoming Assassin’s Creed film.
The installations are a partnership between 20th Century Fox, AMD, and Dell-owned gaming company Alienware. Each participating theater will be equipped with several free Oculus Rift kiosks showing the short video. The piece will actually premiere tonight at The Game Awards, and in addition to being released for free through Oculus Video on the Rift and Samsung Gear VR headsets, it will appear on Facebook as a non-VR 360-degree video. But perhaps even more so than other 360-degree videos, the Assassin’s Creed experience benefits from a headset — it’s a kinetic parkour run that becomes a lot more fun if you can look around freely, instead of dragging around a flat video. Also, you can sort of feel like you’re standing next to Michael Fassbender, for the roughly 15 seconds in which he appears.
The theaters, however, are spread a bit thin. There are a total of six participating locations:
- Century City 15 - Los Angeles, CA
- Orange 30 - Orange, CA
- Lincoln Square 13 - NYC
- 34th Street 14 - NYC
- Barton Creek 14 - Austin, TX
- Metreon 16 - San Francisco, CA
The experience will run during afternoon hours, starting at 2PM or 3PM each day and ending at 9PM or 10PM. The Assassin’s Creed film itself premieres December 21st, at considerably more cinemas.
AMD talked about its movie theater plans earlier this summer, describing a system where people could pay for VR experiences at permanent cinema kiosks. Short video tie-ins to blockbuster movies are popular right now, but there are also some longer and more interactive pieces, like the cooperative four-person game Star Trek: Bridge Crew. Other companies are also attempting to build entire virtual reality equivalents to cinemas, like IMAX, which is supposed to open its first VR theater by the end of 2016.
But this effort is meant simply to show off the Assassin’s Creed experience. AMD virtual production director James Knight says there are no plans to keep these particular kiosks open after the new year, or add other videos — film studios don’t yet have a steady flow of VR material, or a clear picture of how to monetize it. For now, this is a chance to try out the Rift, while seeing how smoothly VR fits into the theatrical experience.