Cinephiles Look To Create The First VR Arthouse Movie Theater 

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Independent movies helped Austin Lugo define who he is. He along with his partners want to bring that same passion to VR.

There’s something special about seeing a film or live show at an independent arthouse theater. Perhaps it’s because these specialized venues choose to show independently produced films made on limited budgets or provide a live theater space for directors, actors, and playwrights to perform without judgment.

When Indianapolis native Austin Lugo moved to Reno, NV in 2021, he fell in love with “The Biggest Little City in the World” but found it lacking an arthouse cinema, something he grew up with and was very fond of. So he and a group of passionate cinephiles set it upon themselves to create one. 

This theater, however, would come with an interesting twist worthy of any art film.

Theater 42 is a new project dedicated to bringing independent films to Reno. At the same time, organizers plan on launching the “world’s first” VR arthouse theater that will coexist with the real-world physical space.

The physical theater will be Reno’s first-ever arthouse cinema. In an effort to expose more people to the art of independent filmmaking, Lugo and his collective of like-minded film fans see an opportunity to use VR and the metaverse as a way to open the doors to a much larger audience.

“Growing up, movies were everything. They were more than just an experience, they were the very foundation of my identity. They shaped who I was and who I am,” said Lugo. “But those experiences which molded my mind and shaped my personality were stripped away by my relocation to Reno. The arthouse, independent, and just plain weird films which were once so easy to find became impossible to see.”

“There are communities across the world just like mine who lack access to this community of artists and cinephiles. That’s why I founded this project, to celebrate the artists within all of us.”

Lugo, along with partners Brandon Hess, Kieran Shay, Andrew Harp, and Shannon Mitchel, want to create a digital twin of the actual Theater 42 space in VR, allowing anyone to walk through the halls, connect with other cinephiles around the world, discuss films, and interact with objects that they might find in a typical theater, regardless of their physical location. All of the aforementioned offerings would be available to the general public free of charge.

If you wanted to watch a film, you would simply walk up to the virtual ticket booth with your avatar and purchase tickets to see one of the films showing in Theater 42’s VR movie theater, which is inspired by theaters Lugo frequented before his move to Reno. Since the idea is to merge both the real world and the virtual, you’ll also be able to use the virtual ticket booth to purchase tickets for real-life shows or events at their physical black box theater. Of course, you would have to go to Reno, but it’s still an interesting way of purchasing tickets.

Merging these two worlds to create a place where people can be exposed to independent art films is important for Kieran Shay, a partner on the project. “The world that I want to live in is one where people can find the same comfort on the big screen as I did. I am driven to create spaces where people with a similar love for movies can come together and appreciate the art that happens on screen.” 

As you would guess, creating a physical theater with a digital twin requires some funding. To help bring their vision of independent theater to life in both worlds, Lugo and his team are launching an official Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday, August 2nd. 

It was important to the Theater 42 team that they offer Kickstarter rewards for any budget, starting with the “Open The Pod Bay Doors, Hal” (One day only) reward at $10. There’s also the “An Offer You Can’t Refuse” reward for $75 as well as “The Writing on the Wall” reward for $10,000, which will have your name engraved in stone at the physical theater and in the virtual space for all eternity! 

You can preview all of the Kickstarter rewards here or just visit their Kickstarter campaign when it launches in August. 

If you’d like to know more about Theater 42, check out their website here

Image Credit: Theater 42

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