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‘Alien: Covenant In Utero’ Puts Virtual Reality Spin on Fox Franchise

Variety logo Variety 4/26/2017 Todd Longwell
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“Alien” fans have watched a long line of endoparasitoid extraterrestrials bloodily burst forth from the host bodies of unfortunate astronauts since the first entry in the franchise debuted in 1979.

Now, for the first time fans will be able to experience it from the creature’s perspective in “Alien: Covenant In Utero,” a two-minute 360-degree video debuting April 26 exclusively on Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR.

“For me, it was about giving the audience an element of wish fulfillment,” said David Karlak, director of “In Utero,” at a press unveiling of the project hosted by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Previously, “we’ve always been on the receiving end of [the] violence.”

Although “In Utero” is designed to promote Fox’s upcoming sequel “Alien: Covenant,” it was not a postproduction afterthought dreamed up by the marketing department. Inspired by a scene in the film, it was made using CGI assets from the production created by Technicolor-owned VFX house MPC and produced in partnership with RSA Films, the production shingle of Ridley Scott, director of the original “Alien,” the 2012 prequel “Prometheus” and “Alien: Covenant.”

Fox first dipped its toe into virtual reality with “Wild – The Experience,” a 360-degree short that served as a promotion for the 2015 film “Wild,” starring Reese Witherspoon. Last fall, it followed with a full-fledged interactive VR experience inspired by Scott’s film “The Martian,” retailing for $9.99, which puts users in the spacesuit of astronaut Mark Watney.

Karlak was signed to direct “In Utero” after his sci-fi short about a robot insurgency, “Rise,” was screened for Scott.

“When we showed ‘Rise’ to Ridley, his immediate reaction was, ‘Who is this guy, why are we not making his films? Let’s get him to work with us,'” said Jen Dennis, who heads RSA Films’ recently-launched VR division.

Semiconductor manufacturer AMD, which makes processors that power home computers and gaming consoles including PlayStation 4 and XBox One, was brought in to ensure that “In Utero” can be viewed glitch-free on a variety of devices when it goes into wide release across mobile and tethered VR platforms on May 10, the same day “Alien: Convenant” hits theaters.

AMD is also teaming with computer maker Alienware and Oculus Rift to bring “In Utero” to customers at 15 Regal Cinemas locations.

According to Roy Taylor, AMD’s corporate VP of alliances, the goal is to help spur the adoption of VR, as well as promote the film. With “Alien,” “interest in the movies is so great that people will try VR that perhaps wouldn’t have tried it if they thought it was just for games,” he said.

“In Utero” is the first project from FoxNext, a division launched in January to serve as an umbrella for all of Fox Entertainment Group’s video game, location-based entertainment, and virtual and augmented reality efforts, drawing on a broad range of new and existing Fox film and TV properties.

Initial projects include interactive VR experiences inspired by the “Planet of the Apes” and “Alien” franchises, the latter of which is scheduled to be released in 2018. Going forward, FoxNext plans to produce 2-4 fully-immersive VR products each year.

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