Hollywood’s hot startup plans virtual-reality immersion for six users

AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest theater chain, has invested $20 million in the fledgling company and agreed to finance the rapid rollout of its product in the United States and Britain.

CULVER CITY, Calif. — It is easily Hollywood’s hottest startup.

Steven Spielberg was an early investor. So were 21st Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. The venture’s leadership team includes the former chief of Disney’s theme-park design division; the producer of the “Men in Black” movie series; and a live event kingpin.

And now AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest theater chain, has invested $20 million in the fledgling company and agreed to finance the rapid rollout of its product in the United States and Britain.

The fuss is over Dreamscape Immersive, which has been working in a Culver City warehouse for the past year and a half on what it calls a “virtual-reality multiplex.” Instead of a variety of movies, Dreamscape Immersive locations will offer a variety of virtual-reality experiences. Its technology, developed by a Swiss motion-capture firm, allows up to six people to explore a virtual-reality environment at once, seeing fully rendered avatars of one another.

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“We were mesmerized by what we saw,” said Adam Aron, chief executive of AMC Entertainment. “Their vision is to change what VR has been — away from just a heightened level of video game and toward cinematic storytelling — and we think it’s what consumers have been waiting for.”

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,” 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 trying to take advantage of the still-untapped consumer promise of virtual-reality technology, the desperate need by shopping malls to reinvent themselves…

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