America 2029: Immersive Media & The Death Of The Film Industry

by Shelton Bumgarner

I’m not going to get into the economic, political or environmental dystopia I believe the United States will be in by 2029 unless some very drastic, very radical things change, like, now. So let’s take a walk down what the online media world might look come January 2029.

First, let’s start with a little speculative anecdote.

You’re in your self-driving car, watching the local news as you head home from your 1 day of physically being in the office. (Immersive media has rendered physically going into work nothing more than a cultural chore of habit.) You notice that Gone With The Wind has been released and using a combination of eye movement and non-audible voice commands, you “subscribe” to the “experience” so you and your wife can “play” the immersive movie when you get home.

Your car parks itself and out of middle-aged habit, you check your snail mail. Your neighbor walks by with his dog. The two of you are Facebook friends and as such you barely have a traditional conversation. You eye what’s floating around each other and interact with the immersive Facebook quickly and silently. You might interject a word or two simply because something you interact with is interesting, but in general the event is simply a pause that ends as quickly as it begins.

Walking into your home, you sync up with the home’s IOT environment and as such learn what may or may not have happened in the house while you were busy at work. You always have the option to do this via MX at work, but it’s frowned upon. Your wife comes up and and you hug and see that your young child continues to grow quickly and in a cute fashion. The baby is asleep in her crib, but you see via MX some of the cuter moments of the day. Your wife is on leave because of the baby and will soon return to work. The two of you go to the Ready Player One-type tread mills and proceed to “play” within the Gone With The Wind environment. Thousands of other people have approximately hours to roam around the environment and get to not only see, but interact with, AI actors playing the different parts of the original movie, only now you have photo realistic Vr instead of the passive nature of film. All of this will be produced not by a film studio, but by a gaming studio.

It seems to me that the movie industry in 10 years will be where the newspaper industry is now — contracting in what seems like a moment-by-moment basis, leaving a lot of people looking at each other and wondering, “Why does it still exist?” Leaving out the possibility of a vinyl record-type revival at some point, it’s likely that the video game industry will battle and defeat the movie industry with the rise of immersive media.

I say this because the movie industry — like the newspaper industry — is slow to change and based on a business model that makes some assumptions that will soon enough no longer be true. With the newspaper industry it’s that people are willing to wait as long as 24 hours to read the news, while with the movie industry it will be that people will want to passively watch a story being told in the dark with a group of loud, often rude people. Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love movies. I love everything about them. I love how they’re made. I love the rise and fall of stars and I love the sparkly nature of showbiz itself.

But, alas, I love newspapers, too, and in 10 years time, I doubt very many of them will exist.

So, what will replace the movie industry? I suspect it will be the video game industry hyped up on the technological advancements of immersive media. By “immersive media,” I mean what some people refer to as MX (AR/VR). Any media where you are assumed to interact with the media in some way. So once social media becomes integrated with AR, then some basic assumptions we have about the fate of Facebook and Twitter may fall by the waist-side. Meanwhile, the entire movie industry, I fear, simply won’t exist as we know it in 2029. Or, if it does, it will be a fraction of its size or own entirely by different gaming companies.

While in some ways, this is kind of old news, I think from a practical economic and social stand point, we’ve barely scratched the surface of trying to understand how immersive media will change every day life.

Shelton Bumgarner is a writer and photographer living in Richmond, Va. He is working on his first novel. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail (dot) com.