Virtual Reality Makes its Debut in Cinema and Theatre

Virtual Reality (VR) has taken the stage in the performing arts spaces. Immersing audiences in the heart of the narrative, VR technology is changing the cinematic and theatrical worlds. Let’s take a closer look at how this technological breakthrough is redefining the world of performances, with a particular focus on the UK.

VR’s Emergence in Performing Arts

Just when we thought the performing arts couldn’t become any more immersive, VR technology has challenged this notion. Rather than simply witnessing a story unfold, VR places the audience inside the story, turning passive viewers into active characters. This transformative power has made VR an attractive tool for filmmakers and theatre producers alike.

VR Cinema: Italy

The Anteo Palazzo del Cinema in Milan, Italy, marked an innovative milestone by becoming the country’s first movie theatre to incorporate VR into its programming. Furnished with 20 VR chair platforms, each equipped with a Pico G2 4K VR headset, this theatre offers audiences a spectacular range of VR titles. From Omar Rashid’s “Lockdown 2020—Invisible Italy,” offering an intimate glimpse of Italian cities during the pandemic, to the extraordinary vision of the Fagradalsfjall volcano’s 2021 eruption in “Volcano—The Life That’s Sleeping,” the VR experience is opening up new realms in cinematic storytelling.


Theatrical Innovation: The UK Leading the Way

The UK, home to an illustrious theatrical tradition, is pioneering the VR movement in theatre. At the Dundee Repertory Theatre, the play “Smile,” based on the life of legendary football manager Jim McLean, provided audiences with VR headsets, transporting them into the immersive world of the play. This approach, taken by the innovative Box Office VR, is a game-changer, redefining theatre-going experiences in an extraordinary way.

Box Office VR: Democratising Theatre

UK-based Box Office VR, founded by Kelman and Gemma Grieg-Kicks, is championing the cause of making theatre more accessible. Using affordable VR systems like Google Cardboard VR Glasses, they’re streaming recorded performances to audiences, removing geographical barriers and making theatre an option for those who may not usually consider it. The success of Box Office VR is proving a stepping stone for other theatres in the UK and across the world to experiment with VR and explore its potential.

London’s Sadler’s Wells and York Theatre Royal

London’s Sadler’s Wells dance theatre and the York Theatre Royal are two established venues in the UK that have dabbled in VR technologies. By embracing this technology, these institutions are ensuring their relevance in the digital age, extending their reach, and exploring new ways to engage audiences.

VR is evidently opening up a new pathway in the performing arts sector as even companies like Box Office VR and institutions like Anteo Palazzo del Cinema, Sadler’s Wells, and York Theatre Royal experiment with VR technology.

In a world where the possibilities of innovation within the arts are so endless in terms of accessibility, reach, and audience engagement and VR could be the key to a more immersive future for cinema and theatre alike. The stage is set; the curtain has been raised on the VR era in performing arts.