- HBO on Tuesday unveiled Lovecraft Country: Sanctum, a virtual reality event series inspired by its new "Lovecraft Country" television show. The virtual events will take place on Sept. 3, Sept. 24 and Oct. 19, per a press release.
- The events will stream on YouTube and run on VRChat, a platform which lets attendees connect with one another in real time in the virtual environment, according to the release.
- During the livestreams, viewers will experience a theater performance inspired by James Baldwin's work; escape rooms; art installations by David Alabo, Devan Shimoyama and Adeyemi Adegbesan; puzzles; and a live concert by a soon-to-be-announced artist. On the YouTube Live stream, viewers can solve riddles to unleash "spells" that will enhance the experience, per the release.
HBO clearly hopes "Lovecraft Country" will be the kind of show that boasts passionate fans who want their experience with the show to extend into opportunities to engage with other fans and the show's talent, similar to what happened with the premium channel's "Game of Thrones" franchise and its fandom.
However, taking this approach for "Lovecraft Country" comes with some challenges, including restrictions around in-person events during the COVID-19 pandemic. Another potential challenge is the ongoing controversy around H.P. Lovecraft and the popular series of horror books he wrote that reflect his racism. HBO's "Lovecraft Country" is based on a 2016 novel of the same name by Matt Ruff that attempts to rectify the racism inherent in Lovecraft's books by building the story around Black characters.
To address the limitations around building fandom at a time when in-person events are limited, HBO created the VR experience in collaboration with The Mill, a creative production and experience studio that has previously created content for brands including Universal and Dior.
"So much of Lovecraft Country is rooted in the idea of travel as a catalyst for self-discovery," Dana Flax, vice president of program marketing at HBO, said in a statement. "Sanctum provides a way for fans to come together virtually and safely in a unique new place and experience incredible performances that further explore themes and ideas from the show. These virtual events also give us the special opportunity of spotlighting the work of Black artists in celebration of this very important series."
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to limit in-person gatherings, more marketers will likely turn to virtual events to connect with consumers from afar for now and well into the future. More than a quarter of marketers don't expect in-person event attendance to return to pre-pandemic levels, and more than half of respondents will include a virtual component after the pandemic ends, a survey from The 614 Group found. Another survey from the group found that the majority of people anticipate virtual events to continue after the pandemic.
With virtual events expected to persist, moves have been made in the space. Apple last month acquired the VR startup Spaces, a Los Angeles-based company that creates location-based VR experiences like "Terminator Salvation: Fight for the Future."