Photographer: Gilles Sabrie/Bloomberg

The Theme Park of the Future Could Be in This Chinese Basement

Virtual reality is catching on in China. Just ask Zhang Yimou, the man who choreographed the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

SoReal, a startup co-founded by the famed director of "House of Flying Daggers" and "The Great Wall," is preparing to open this year what it bills to be the world’s first virtual-reality park.

There Are No Roller Coasters in This VR Theme Park

"As a movie director—someone who is good at creating visual effects—this technology is significant," Zhang said. "It’s not flat. You can see color in 360 degrees. You can even interact with it. That’s unique!"

While the Nanchang theme park has yet to be built, SoReal currently operates in a 10,000 square foot basement of a Beijing shopping mall, where goggle-wearing visitors can shoot space creatures while walking through a barren, foam-padded area or try out other virtual-reality experiences.

A visitor wears a virtual reality (VR) headset while seated in a 4D cinema that can accommodate 23 people at the So Real virtual reality park in Beijing, China, on Friday, March 3, 2017. Photographer: Gilles Sabri/Bloomberg
A visitor wearing a VR headset is seated in a 4D cinema at the So Real virtual reality park in Beijing.
Photographer: Gilles Sabrie/Bloomberg

The company has ambitions to become the Universal Studios of China and plans to open its first park by the end of this year in eastern Jiangxi province, Chief Executive Officer Michael Qi Xiao said. Highlights will include characters such as the "Monkey King”—the mythological simian superhero whose stories have spawned a plethora of literature, animation and feature films in the country—Qi said.

Director Zhang has reason to be optimistic. The industry is growing so fast that researcher IDC predicts China will overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest virtual-reality market in 2019.

An employee is silhouetted behind a projection displayed on a curved screen at the So Real virtual reality park in Beijing, China, on Friday, February 3rd 2017. Photographer: Gilles Sabri/Bloomberg
A projection displayed on a curved screen.
Photographer: Gilles Sabrie/Bloomberg

—With assistance from Jing Yang de Morel and Stephen Engle

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