Virtual Reality and the likely return of the Movie Intermission


By David Cox

A memory of my travels as a young film maker with a suitcase of 16mm film prints traveling around the Pacific North West. I was hanging out with Bob Basanich (sometime guitarist for Negativland and co-founder of the Olympia Film Ranch) when touring with my films in 1992. Bob was the among other things at the time, the 35mm projectionist at a Drive-In theater outside Olympia, Washington. During intermission he projected some excellent old 1950s Intermission and Snack Time! slides as well as others advertising long-defunct car dealerships and other local businesses that he’d found in the projection booth. He also screened a short film he’d made from the offcuts of 35mm he’d found lying around in the same booth.

All this in between the main show which was an Alien 2 and Predator 2 double show. Shooting stars also appeared above the screen that night amidst the Douglas Firs…

Intermissions no longer are a part of the mainstream cinema experience, but I suspect they will make their return with Virtual Reality, if only to give the wearer of the headset a break to perceive the world around them. Virtual Reality movies must include everything in their field of view, including the film maker, who we are told must ‘blend in’ to the environment if they are to not be obvious to the viewer. With no frame there is nowhere to hide. Time too, must disappear if the illusion is to be maintained.

So how best to transition from the VR realm to that of the world beyond the headset? Fade-outs, wake-up calls? What might the industry of ads be in the VR world – one shudders to think… As for the intermission, those 1950s tantalizing appeals to go to the snack bar of the drive-in theaters of 60 years ago could now be the 3D injunction to press the virtual button to order a pizza, or some other delivery item. Or to visit the kitchen to get a branded item that unlocks part 2 of the production you are watching. Gamifying the VR surround experience could be average consumer dystopian future, if the usual people in the media production industries have their way.

It remains to be seen.

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