Ahead of the launch of “Men In Black: International” this week, Sony Pictures Entertainment is getting ready to transport fans into the universe of the franchise: The studio announced a new partnership with VR startup Dreamscape Monday to bring a “Men in Black” VR experience to Dreamscape’s flagship location at the in Century City, Calif. this summer.
Sony Pictures also partnered with Dave & Busters to bring a separate VR experience to the chain’s around 130 locations across North America, and is pursuing additional opportunities for the franchise across a variety of platforms. “The iconic MIB brand is big enough for multiple immersive experiences to live within its universe,” said Sony Pictures Entertainment VR senior vice president Jake Zim in a media release.
In a conversation with Variety, Zim said that Sony took very different approaches for the two experiences, with Dreamscape’s version, dubbed ‘Men in Black: First Assignment,” having a much bigger focus on storytelling. “We’ve always loved how they embraced the narrative side,” Zim said about Dreamscape.
In the 10-12 minute experience, up to six players get tasked with a “Men In Black”-worthy mission, and then explore a variety of worlds with the help of intergalactic hoverbikes. “You’re in the world of ‘Men in Black,’” Zim said.
“There’s always been something aspirational about MIB — and now we can invite our audience to enter the MIB universe and become the iconic agents in ways that are possible only through the magic of VR,” said Dreamscape chairman Walter Parkes, who happens to also be a producer for the “Men in Black” franchise. “With ‘MIB: First Assignment,’ you will truly be the hero of the adventure.”
Dreamscape is one of a number of startups banking on bringing untethered VR experiences with haptic feedback and physical props to malls and movie theaters. The company opened its first flagship location at the Westfield Century City mall late last year, and plans to open 4 new VR centers in the coming months, including in Dallas, New Jersey, Columbus and Dubai. Said Zim: “As they grow, we grow alongside with them.”
For its partnership with Dave & Busters, which went live last month, Sony Pictures VR embraced a much more action-packed side of the “Men in Black” franchise. In a game custom-produced for the VR motion chairs used by the chain, contestants get to shoot their way through a quick mission set in the “Men in Black” universe. “It’s a gamified ride experience,” said Zim. “It’s very replayable, very competition-based.”
Both experiences include new characters from the upcoming “Men in Black: International” movie, but Zim said that the studio was always looking to balance original content with recognizable characters. “We know what people are familiar with, what they want to see,” he said. “We never want to replay the movie in VR.”
What’s more, Sony Pictures doesn’t just see these experiences as a way to promote the new movie. “Our mission has always been to build the business of immersive entertainment,” said Zim.
Part of that strategy is also going be to take “Men in Black” to other platforms, with Zim hinting at plans to for larger-scale immersive projects. “We are really excited about this IP,” he said.