The AMC deal, which brings total investment in Dreamscape to more than $40 million, calls for up to six Dreamscape locations to open over the next 18 months. Some will be inside existing AMC theaters, and some will be stand-alone centers nearby. Additionally, Dreamscape will open a flagship location in the first quarter of next year at the Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles. Westfield is another Dreamscape investor.
“In many cases, we have surplus space, and we think Dreamscape will add energy and excitement to our theaters, especially during the week,” Mr. Aron said. “But this isn’t a replacement for movies. It’s a complement.” Tickets are expected to cost from $15 to $20.
Dreamscape joins a cluster of companies that are trying to take advantage of the still-untapped consumer promise of virtual-reality technology, the desperate need by shopping malls to reinvent themselves in the online retail age and the pressure on movie studios (and theater companies) to find new avenues of growth.
The Void, a Utah start-up, recently announced a partnership with the Walt Disney Company to open “Star Wars”-themed virtual-reality experiences at Disney malls outside theme parks in California and Florida. Already operating are two Imax V.R. Centres in Los Angeles and New York; tickets start at $7, and the Los Angeles location has attracted 50,000 people over the last nine months. Imax said it planned to expand the concept to Canada, Britain and Shanghai this fall.
The Hollywood players behind Dreamscape give it immediate cachet. Joining Mr. Spielberg are people like Hans Zimmer, the movie music composer, and the director Gore Verbinski. But their involvement does not guarantee success. Mr. Spielberg, for one, has been down this road before, with mixed results. In the late 1990s, his DreamWorks SKG invested alongside Universal Pictures in a heavily promoted venture called GameWorks, which was supposed to use new technology to revolutionize the arcade business. GameWorks never lived up to its billing.
Around the same time, Disney encountered similar disappointment with DisneyQuest, which was envisioned as a worldwide chain offering virtual-reality experiences. Only two were built.
Two members of the Dreamscape management team,…