Fox Innovation Lab to Debut Virtual Reality with ‘The Martian”

For box-office hit “The Martian,” 20th Century Fox and its Fox Innovation Lab developed a VR experience that will debut as a commercial release in the first half of 2016. The VR experience relies on Oculus headsets but will also be available with other devices. The experience is based on the lead character of the movie, putting viewers into the challenges faced by astronaut Mark Watney on Mars. Filmmaker Robert Stromberg said the “thrilling” experience aims to provoke a wide range of emotions including anxiety and success.

According to The New York Times, the VR experience’s length will vary between 15 and 25 minutes, as viewers can “linger to look for details hidden among the interactive folds of the experience.”

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Stromberg spent months on the production at the same time that Ridley Scott was directing “The Martian,” which has earned over $384 at the box office since its October 2 release. Stromberg directed Disney’s “Maleficent” and won Oscars for his art direction on “Alice in Wonderland” and “Avatar.”

NYT reports that “The Martian” VR experience “will become the first among dozens such products planned by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment,” following the studio’s demonstration of VR capabilities last year with the film “Wild.” Among the other films on Fox’s “list of virtual reality treatment” are “Alien,” “Life of Pi,” “Gone Girl” and “Black Swan.” Another possibility is director Alejandro Iñárritu’s upcoming “The Revenant.”

“We look at the whole slate, we have ideas,” says Fox Innovation Lab creative executive David Greenbaum.

Fox futurist Ted Schilowitz says the decision to make a VR experience out of “The Martian” had “much to do with the personal nature of the story, which presented many opportunities to create interactive adventures (and mishaps) from the point of view of the stranded astronaut, played by Matt Damon in the film.”

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment president Mike Dunn says the product is not yet priced but will be “cheap enough to attract a wide audience.” Paramount Pictures also just announced a plan for a demo version of a virtual reality game, tied to the “Paranormal Activity” films.