Going to the movies in VR: Virtual reality cinemas as alternatives to in-person co-viewing

Kata Szita, Wyatt Moss-Wellington, Xiaolin Sun, Eugene Ch'ng

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


Virtual reality cinemas offer computer-generated screening environments that resemble physical-world movie theaters for avatar-based viewers. Reflecting on virtual spectatorship in the context of social isolation, the present study investigates whether VR cinemas could provide an alternative for collective movie watching and whether they could facilitate an engaging experience similar to other, physical-world co-viewing environments. To measure these effects, we designed a behavioral experiment in which participants watched a feature film sequence either in VR or a physical screening room in the presence or absence of viewing companions. After viewing, participants’ experiences—including emotional engagement, narrative empathy, presence, social experiences, and physical and mental well-being—were recorded using survey methods. We observed that VR viewing can produce an equally enjoyable film experience, as well as similar levels of emotional engagement and narrative empathy, while it leads to increased comprehension of characters’ feelings and sense of narrative engagement. In addition, social viewing may mean less engagement and more distractions depending on the screening environment. We also found that even though previous virtual reality exposure negatively correlates with comfort and well-being during viewing, early adopters of technology and VR supporters are more likely to have an enjoyable and engaging film experience.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103150
JournalInternational Journal of Human Computer Studies
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • Audience effect
  • Narrative engagement
  • Social isolation
  • Social virtual reality
  • Virtual reality cinema
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Software
  • Education
  • General Engineering
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Hardware and Architecture


Dive into the research topics of 'Going to the movies in VR: Virtual reality cinemas as alternatives to in-person co-viewing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this