By LINDSEY BAHR, AP screenwriter
Last week, Daisy Ridley and Jennifer Hudson went to a movie premiere together. They posed for photos and made remarks from a stage while an audience watched them quietly.
Or, more precisely, their avatars did.
The actors were in fact on different continents, gathered for a few minutes through virtual reality headsets to walk a red carpet, pose for photos in front of a march and rehearse and talk to a host of other avatars on behalf of their short. footage â. Baba Yaga. This is the very first VR movie premiere.
âI really feel like I went to a premiere,â Hudson said later. “But I did not leave my house! I think that’s a good way to do it, especially right now.
She especially liked seeing her team and how similar their avatars were.
Virtual film premieres have become the norm in Hollywood since the start of the pandemic. “Events” usually involve a start time to air the movie on your home screen, and sometimes a zoom-style Q&A with flair afterwards. But Baobab Studios, the 6-year-old interactive animation studio behind a handful of virtual reality cinematic experiences, has decided to push the boundaries of “Baba Yaga”.
âI really don’t think we would have ever thought of it without COVID,â said Eric Darnell, the man behind the âMadagascarâ films and co-founder of Baobab. “We usually have our films premiered at festivals.”
“Baba Yaga” also had a real festival premiere as part of the Venice Film Festival last year. But as it became increasingly clear that there would be no opportunity in the United States, the company began working alongside consulting firm XR MESH to produce the ambitious event, which included the design of a tropical forest room inspired by that of the film.
The premiere of the virtual reality movie is not entirely different from an actual premiere. There are publicists and filmmakers and actors, things to watch and exhibits to take selfies with (really). At this particular event, there was also a demarcated ‘restricted’ area, although organizers said it was simply there to denote the end of space and not an exclusive side party.
And much like in real events, sometimes you find yourself with no one to talk to and awkwardly walk around listening. But in a VR premiere, you can’t even pretend to send text messages or reply to emails. This journalist also had to remove her headset for a few minutes after feeling dizzy in virtual reality.
Darnell co-wrote and directed the film / experiment alongside Mathias Chelebourg. It also includes the voices of Kate Winslet and Glen Close. The Rainforest Movie and Room are currently available for experience through Oculus Quest.
Events like this may have been born out of necessity, but they could be the way of the future.
âEven though we’ve gone back to premiering at festivals, I still think it’s an amazing way to bring people together and say let’s celebrate this medium by having a party inside,â Darnell said.
Follow AP film writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr
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