If you love movies and consider yourself a true cinephile, chances are you already have a home cinema projector for big screen magic in the living room. Increasingly, that projector will feature 4K and HDR to provide the finest image quality possible, because sticking with 1080p these days doesn’t do movies justice. While most film buffs watch older releases or content available as second-run or home video, so-called virtual cinemas have grown in popularity over the last few years. Recent events and a shift towards home viewing have meant that virtual cinemas grew even more prominent, offering first-run films directly to home consumers.
Unlike regular streaming and video on demand, or VOD, virtual cinema implies a direct connection between movie theater or distributor and the viewer. Granted, so far this has applied mostly to more independent, smaller scale releases and venues, but that could change. Arthouse movie chains like the Alamo Drafthouse have embraced virtual cinema, as did platforms such as Film Movement. Even entire film festivals have moved to virtual due to current conditions and travel considerations.
With virtual cinema, you go directly to your local movie house’s website, not to a streaming app or a VOD storefront. You peruse currently available films and pay for a showing. Instead of a ticket, you get a link via email that can be activated in different ways, either a browser or a set-top box like Apple TV. Simply connect the source device to your projector via HDMI or even wirelessly, and off you go. Usually you have up to three days to watch the movie, but some places like to maintain the theatrical feel, so if the schedule says the movie will play on Thursday at 8pm, then your stream will start then, not sooner.
Also, movies rotate all the time with virtual cinema, unlike traditional VOD where once on the store they just stay there. Clearly virtual cinema has been intentionally designed to evoke the moviegoing experience for people who can’t or don’t want to venture out to the real thing. Importantly, by buying tickets directly you support local theaters and movie distributors since there are fewer mediators along the way compared to streaming and VOD.
All of that independence doesn’t mean lesser image quality, as a lot of the movies offered via virtual cinemas take advantage of high end 4K HDR home cinema advancements.
Whether you already have a nice home projector or have been thinking of getting one, virtual cinema should definitely factor into your decision. If you love movies then you likely want to support the people that make and showcase them in a more direct manner, and virtual cinema allows you to have fun while acting as a bigger patron of the arts. Choosing the right 4K HDR home projector, screen, and audio arrangement offers its own set of rewards, if you haven’t already done so, and we have much info on that. Just be prepared for your place to become a lot more popular if word gets out of first-run releases playing in your living room on a regular basis.
The support aspect should not be underplayed. While of course there’s nothing wrong with the big streaming platforms and VOD, they’re all operated by major corporations. When you watch second-run or even first-run big releases on these platforms, you support filmmakers in a generally indirect fashion. With virtual cinema you and your local theaters interact directly, so they get a bigger share of the money. In that way, you’re helping theaters weather current conditions and make it to better times.
So you have your 4K HDR projector, screen, movie room, and popcorn. You may even get some “movie theater fragrance” if you look hard enough, maybe someone sells that, too! At this point, the technology to 3D print the rich variety of snacks, drinks, posters, wall paper, and ticket stubs doesn’t quite exist, but hey, we’ll get there.
But seriously, virtual cinema allows fans of movies from every part of the world to enjoy diverse cinematic experiences right at home without compromising quality. You don’t need to settle for a TV or even worse, a laptop. Kick back, relax, and enjoy all-new movies of every genre on a big screen with the comforting feel of a proper projector.
Just remember the schedule, because the “virtual” in virtual cinema sometimes means an actual specific showtime, as mentioned above, so check for details when buying your ticket.