Pogue's rant: No, VR films won't replace regular movies

There’s been a lot of shuffling in the realm of virtual-reality movie companies this week. Facebook (FB), for example, shut down its Oculus Studio completely. Google (GOOG, GOOGL) bought Owlchemy, a VR films company. Meanwhile, Fox (FOXA), Disney (DIS) and Lionsgate have committed millions to producing 360-degree movies.

There’s only one problem: Nobody’s figured out how to make a dramatic film in VR.

I don’t just mean the technical aspects, which are considerable. (Even when you’re making a traditional movie, it’s really hard to keep lights, crew, and vehicles out of the shot. Where are you supposed to put all that stuff when the camera films 360 degrees around it?)

No, I mean the audience-attention problem. Movie directors direct your attention, so that every audience member experiences the same dramatic moments, the same emotional “beats,” because we’re all seeing the same events. How is that supposed to work when different people are looking off in different directions?

VR will find its place as a novelty experience, like Imax or those hydraulic “4-D” rides at shopping malls.

VR is fantastic for games, concerts, realtors, and non-plotted news scenes. But will VR movies replace today’s big-screen productions—90-minute stories told through characters, dialogue, and events?


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David Pogue, tech columnist for Yahoo Finance, welcomes nontoxic comments in the comments section below. On the web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s poguester@yahoo.com. You can read all his articles here, or you can sign up to get his columns by email.