North America’s First VR Cinema Opens in Toronto

Toronto-based startup Vivid VR is piloting the first virtual reality cinema in North America, opening July 16. The pop-up cinema will offer movie-goers three 5-10-minute-long short films told through an Oculus Rift VR head-set and headphones. Co-founders Gary Tam, Ran Mo and Crystal Chen are looking test audience engagement for this new experience.

Vivid VR cofounders Ran Mo and Gary Tam demo their pop-up cinema experience in Toronto

“The truth is most people just don’t have devices at this point,” explained Ro. “Once they actually do have the opportunity to try it they will realize the power and immersive nature of virtual reality and want more of it. So we are trying to pioneer that industry and give people the opportunity to actually experience it,” added Tam.

 Movie-goers will enter the 20 seat cinema in groups for a brief demo of the technology before pushing play on their own headsets to see what the worlds first VR filmmakers are doing. The film selections are both animated and live-action and take advantage of the 360 degree capabilities of VR. The swivel chairs allow the audience to explore the film from all angles while seated.


The films that we have slated for July & August have debuted at Sundance, at Cannes and Tribeca film festivals and a few at TIFF that will come up. We are basically bringing that content to a mass market who don’t really have their own devices … there  are a lot of interesting films out there but no one is seeing them,” said Ro.

Vivid VR’s secondary motivator is to foster a VR community to fill a gap between big-budget Hollywood production and independent: “I think what’s going to happen in 5 or 10 years is that VR content is going to become another mainstream vertical that’s going to stand next to films and other media,” said Ro, “In the mean-time there is going to be an ecosystem of both creators and exhibitors that’s going to come up across the world … the barrier to entry for films is so low that if you spent two months learning deeply about [the process] and have access to a [shooting] rig, then there is good chance you can get into Sundance this year.”

The cinema will run through to the end of August and depending on the response may expand to a more permanent space.

Photo Credit: Techvibes Staff