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Vivian Marthell on O Cinema’s Virtual Reality

In the near future O Cinema is going to be the last movie theater on Miami Beach. To keep the theater relevant O Cinema co-founder Vivian Marthell is having the theater offer something different beyond screening independent and foreign films. Every Saturday and Sunday through April guests have the opportunity to pay $5 to strap on a virtual reality helmet and be immersed in the short film This is Not a Ceremony.

This past Sunday I experienced the twenty minute film. The goggles feel similar to when you have your vision checked at the eye doctor. But quickly you find yourself immersed in a world that is not yours. You can swivel around in your chair and choose where in the 360 degree range of vision that you want to focus on.

This is Not a Ceremony was a heavy film showcasing a couple traumatic instances where Native Americans were abused. With virtual reality goggles you really can look away from the hard truths it profiles. If you don’t want to see a man as he’s dying in a hospital waiting room you can choose to look at other patients as they pass the time. It truly is a unique experience.

Vivian Marthell hopped on the Jitney to talk a little more about virtual reality and O Cinema.

How did O Cinema come about to decide to have this new permanent cinematic virtual reality experience?

Vivian Marthell: Virtual reality is by its nature cinematic and having a permanent rotating VR experience at O Cinema South Beach has been part of our ongoing fascination with new technology and storytelling. We began expanding into VR by creating our digital O Cinema “world” in AltSpace where we have been hosting monthly curated shorts program since 2021. (This program will be moving over to VRChat in the coming months). Having the ability to offer up in-theater VR and AR experiences to the public and showcase these innovative creators onsite was a natural next step.

Can you do your best to describe in words what the virtual reality experience is like?

This is difficult to describe. It’s like putting words to an experience and a feeling at once. If a movie can move you to suspend your belief, feel empathy or feel frightened, the donning of a VR headset puts you “in” the experience as a witness, protagonist, victim or hero/ine.

How did the program to bring the virtual reality installations to public libraries come about? Is it free for everyone at the community?

We are partnering with MDPLS and other venues in Miami-Dade as part of our O Cinema on the Go program. This program will take movies and VR experiences throughout the county. It is in our DNA to share these independent creative stories and new technology with our community. O Cinema loves to collaborate with partners that share our belief of the power of the arts to change communities and change lives. Yes, the library experiences are free to the community.

With Regal South Beach closing, O Cinema I believe is going to be the only movie theater on the Beach. What’s the secret to your success in staying open?

Yes, it seems we may be the only full time movie house on all of Miami Beach. Our “magic sauce” is we work to ensure that we present a reflection of our city’s diversity on the screen and in the seats and that prices are accessible to the broadest possible audience and most importantly because of the continued support from our community.

What are some upcoming movies playing at O that film lovers should make sure to come out and see?

You must come see The Whale, directed by Darren Aronofsky starring Brendan Fraser. Oscar worthy performance.


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