Oculus Cinema is a first-party VR application that recreates the experience of having your own personal cinema or leather chair adorned home theater. And while it’s great to feel like you’re sitting in front of a massive screen, what fun is it alone? Oculus understands that movie-going is not a solo activity and says that they’re building online multiplayer and social features into the app.

Those with Samsung’s Gear VR headset have been able to step into Oculus Cinema since day one; the app is part of a host of first-party applications from Oculus (who collaborated with Samsung on Gear VR) and it has pulls out all the stops to make a graphically impressive experience, surrounding the viewer with rows of seats in detailed environments that even reflect the ambient light from the movie on the screen. Only one problem—the theaters are empty of even a single human soul beyond your own.

Oculus Cinema’s moon theater. ♫ “It’s lonely out in space…” ♫

And this puts the current incarnation of Oculus Cinema in a curious place. For a bulk of users, movie-going is a social experience. If Oculus really wants to create a VR movie theater, they need to account for that aspect of the activity.

And account for it they shall, according to Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey, who told Road to VR at this week’s Gamescom 2015 that the company recognizes the need to make Oculus Cinema social.

“That’s definitely the point of Oculus Cinema. It’s not that you want to replicate the experience of being in a movie theater alone, you want to replicate the experience of being in a movie theater or home theater with all of your friends,” Luckey said.

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With that, the company is building out social features that it plans to roll out in the near future.

“So we already have a lot of internal social functions in Cinema that are going to be rolling out in the next few months. Things like avatar systems, being able to communicate with people over long distances… rather than just local multiplayer, but having actual long distant multiplayer as well.”

Luckey affirmed that Oculus Cinema would also be coming to the Oculus Rift at launch saying that “what’s going to be shipping with the [consumer] Rift has a lot more [social features] built-in than the versions of Oculus Cinema that are shipping right now [on Gear VR],” including several features that he says are yet unannounced.

What kind of feature parity will be seen between the Gear VR and Rift versions of Oculus Cinema remains to be seen. Of particular interest will be whether or not the social features will work across the two platforms.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Blender1

    At what point is this skeuomorphic? Should we, as VR pioneers, be recreating a movie theatre, or is there some other design language that should be targeted? Maybe a black environment and screen is all that is needed and not the fluff of a virtual cinema.

    • David Mulder

      Skeuomorphism always makes sense in the early stages of a new technology. Optimization makes only sense once you have a level playing ground that anybody can use. Honestly, I have no idea right now how a social watching experience could be created without skeumorphism and who knows, maybe the real world actually is the best xD . After all, skeuomorphism is said to be a bad thing because you try to recreate the real world in a place where that’s impossible, but in virtual reality our goal is to create an environment where we can recreate the full real world.

  • cly3d

    >>“That’s definitely the point of Oculus Cinema. It’s not that you want to replicate the experience of being in a movie theater alone, you want to replicate the experience of being in a movie theater or home theater with all of your friends,” Luckey said.

    That’s what I said too, “this week” on reddit ;) :

    The way it’s going to work is:
    (1) Strap your own I-VR-max screen to your face.
    (2) Tab to Facebook “canvas”.
    (3) Select movie – pay/rent using FB payments: 1 tix to 10tix party.
    (4) Invite friends to share in the experience via FB friendlist.
    (5) Start movie… interact with friend list in sidebar/bottom bar.
    (6) Buy Beer/Pizza – send to friends house.
    Caveat: make sure beer comes with straw or you’ll chip your teeth/headset.
    edit works for Oculus Cinema or games. If Oculus Cinema… see your FB “friends” in the seats next to you in Oculus Cinema.


  • Bao Nguyen

    Now they need to increase movies quality. We need 4-8k smartphone with at least 1TB storage and 1-10 Gbps internet connection right now! ;P

  • O chato

    Who said that cinema is a social activity?

    Imagine instead of paying a lot for shitty seats at the premiere you could just strap oculus and stream the movie, in silence, with a good audio system…. f*ck social gimme a good res screen and the wow factor of surround sound…