Virtual reality and augmented reality will one day change the very concept of a theme park and attractions, according to Tony Christopher, CEO and founder of Landmark Entertainment Group.
Landmark, known for creating Universal Studios theme park attractions like Kongfrontation, Terminator 2 3D, and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 5D, has used the latest technology to improve the immersive thrill ride experiences that power the $25 billion theme park business.
Landmark has developed the creative and design concept for the L.I.V.E. Centre (Landmark Interactive Virtual Experience), a combined virtual reality and augmented reality (known as mixed reality) entertainment destination that will launch in China within the next three years.
Christopher says Landmark has spent the past 14 months exploring how virtual reality and augmented reality can be added to traditional entertainment like 3D, projection, surround sound, and special effects.
Fusing art, culture, and retail with virtual reality, augmented reality, and themed architecture and design, each complex will include an interactive museum, a virtual zoo and aquarium, a digital art gallery, a live entertainment stage, an immersive movie theater, and themed experience retail.
“With virtual reality we can put you in the African savannah or fly you into outer space,” Christopher says. “This completely changes the idea of an old-fashioned museum by allowing kids to experience prehistoric dinosaurs or legendary creatures as we develop new experiences that keep them coming back for more. We’ll combine education and entertainment into one destination that’s always evolving.”
With a recent infusion of funding from Chinese investors, Landmark is targeting China first because Christopher says there’s a huge consumer base that wants to be entertained. The recent Shanghai Expo attracted over 70 million people in the first six months. In comparison, a World’s Fair in any other country would be considered a huge success if it attracted 20 million people.
Christopher says the goal is to have 20 to 30 L.I.V.E. Centres around the world and Landmark will continually update the software to create brand new experiences. Christopher believes each center will attract 3 to 5 million people per year.
“What we’re creating is the equivalent of taking your family to a theme park for a day, and enjoying that experience so much, that you want to repeat it over and over again—the only difference is that the experience will happen in the virtual world,” Christopher says.
Christopher says when it comes to the broader theme park business, which is very conservative, it will take an amazing VR attraction developed for a reasonable price to succeed before more attractions become the norm. And Christopher believes the idea of a completely VR theme park will be further down the line.
“We’re already thinking about how VR and alternate reality can create the theme park of the future,” Christopher says. “We spend a lot of time creating environments and characters and today we have to use light systems, projection systems, and animatronics and ultimately it doesn’t create a true virtual reality.”
“With the Spider-Man 5D ride you couldn’t tell the reality from the 3D film and Spider-Man does fly over your head and land on your vehicle,” Christopher continues. “In VR we could put it all in a headset and people could ride through and the buildings could be smaller and you could feel like you’re there. With VR we could put you on a real adventure like you’ve never seen before.”
Having created Jurassic Park: The Ride for Universal Studios with animatronics and special effects, Christopher says VR could better replicate real dinosaurs and deliver a scarier Jurassic World experience. “I’m hoping that we can do that down the road,” he adds.
For now, it’s just a matter of a few years before China gets the world’s first L.I.V.E. Centre and VR opens up brand new worlds to attendees.