Live VR Movie Screening of the 1965 Selma March

It’s been a dramatic few weeks and to acknowledge the protest movements, the social VR platform Bigscreen is offering a special live VR movie screening of Selma. Covering the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965, it took five decades before a Hollywood took on what was a seminal event in American history that has so much relevance for today.

Directed by Ava DuVernay, the film would make its premier during the 2014 American Film Institute Festival before releasing nationwide in 2015. Selma would go on to be nominated for Best Picture at the 87th Academy Awards. (VRScout)

The live VR movie screening of Selma will take place on June 13th at 4:00 pm Pacific / 7:00 pm Eastern time. If you miss the live showing, it will be available on-demand through June 30th.

Here’s the trailer for Selma from Paramount Pictures:

Looking back on the events surrounding the three-day, 54 mile Selma March, one striking statistic says it all: in 1965, over 15,000 black residents of Selma, Alabama were of legal voting age. Only 335 were registered to vote. There were actually three (attempted) marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The first was turned back on March 7th in what became known as Bloody Sunday. The second on March 9th, when protesters again came up against state troopers, knelt, prayed, and turned back. The final and successful march came on the 21st when thousands crossed the Bridge and continued to Montgomery.

The final march was different than what we’ve experienced over the past few weeks. The 1965 protesters were armed with a Federal District Court order and were under the protection of federal troops.

The crowd at the state capitol in Montgomery on March 25, 1965.
The crowd at the state capitol in Montgomery on March 25, 1965.

The movie Selma also took multiple attempts, going through several rewrites and multiple directors over ten years. Nothing comes easy in America’s race relations – including movies on historical events.

Bigscreen’s Live VR Movie Screening of Selma

With little content at the outset (much like the early days of cable), Bigscreen has made a concerted effort to expand its range of offerings. With its deal with Paramount Pictures late last year, four movies will premier in VR every Friday evening at 6:00 pm on a pay-per-view basis. Of course, we need lighter weight HMD to make this a comfortable experience truly, and the platform has benefited from the release of the standalone Oculus Quest. The idea of watching a movie while tethered to your computer is not overly inviting.

But with the Coronavirus, Bigscreen suddenly finds itself in an interesting position as no one is going to the movies. We’ve always been a little suspicious of the integration of VR with traditional media – the main question, why are we doing this? But in light of a global pandemic, it makes increasing sense to leverage the immersive qualities of VR to enhance other media formats.

As for the live VR movie screening of Selma, a Paramount Pictures representative said:

We hope this small gesture will encourage people throughout the country to examine our nation’s history and reflect on the ways that racial injustice has infected our society. The key message of Selma is the importance of equality, dignity and justice for all people. (VR Focus)

It’s not only a message in the movie – it is one that we are hearing in our streets in America and across the world.

Bigscreen is available on a variety of platforms, including the Oculus QuestOculus Rift/Rift S, and SteamVR. Selma is a must-see movie in light of the events swirling around us. And if you haven’t tried out Bigscreen, this is an opportunity to experience a major film for free on the platform.