Wisdome is in the historic Arts District in downtown Los Angeles. (Courtesy Michael Leonard/ArcSpace)

Los Angeles’ Wisdome puts 360-degree films in geodesic domes

Wisdome is a new kind of venue. Set on 35,000 square feet in the historic Arts District in downtown Los Angeles, the facility is actually five geodesic domes that together provide an immersive art experience.

Wisdome bills itself as an “interactive VR theme park.”

It makes Wisdome “the world’s first immersive art park as far as we know,” according to board member and Chief Operating Officer Stephen Powers. “In essence we are a location-based virtual reality theme park.”

There are five domes of different sizes, the largest running 90 feet in diameter. Guests sit in seats (VIP ticket buyers get reclining couches) or buy a general admission no-seat ticket. “We call it dancing room, not standing room,” Powers said. The venue has a capacity of 1,500; the largest dome holds 500 people.

The content comprises short films, shot in a 360-degree format, that the Wisdome team produces.

“We use projection mapping and stitching together, which allow us to use the dome as a theater,” he said. “It’s like Imax on steroids, virtual reality without the goggles. You are completely immersed in an experience that is all around you. It’s all because of the illusion of infinite depth.

“If you are looking at a television screen you know I am here and that is there. In an immersive environment, you are immersed in the whole experience,” he said. “You are part of it. It’s interactive. You feel like you are there.”

“Samskara” is the main art piece presented at Wisdome. (Courtesy Hugo Barth)

The base exhibition is called “Samskara,” which is a word for reincarnation in the Buddhist tradition, and based on the art work of Android Jones. Other films currently include a Pink Floyd immersive experience called “Beyond the Wall,” featuring licensed Pink Floyd music; “Akashic Sound Bath & Visual Journey on New Moon” and “Cosmic Comedy Jam.”

“Two of the domes change programming constantly,” Powers said. “We’ve produced almost 50 films.”

Programming is done by the Wisdome board of directors, which includes Powers, Vice President Sean Ahearn and Giorgi Aistov, who is the owner of Wisdome’s parent company, Fulldome.pro, which is an industry leader in dome technology.

“Wisdome is the next expression of a company that has been around for a decade,” Powers said. “Last year they did 43 World Cup events, the Super Bowl, the dome at Coachella, the dome at Burning Man and the dome at Lightning in a Bottle.”

Wisdome has a three-year lease for its downtown LA location. “We are in the historic area of the downtown core because it has always been home to the artist community,” Powers said. “Many, many artists have studios in the area. The Museum of Modern Art is nearby.”

Another strong reason LA was selected was because of its ties to Hollywood.

“We’re here to co-create with Hollywood,” Powers said. “We want them to see what we are doing, how much the fans love it, and start creating content for our domes.” Powers said he’s in talks with several major studios that have already expressed interest in making content for Wisdome but did not want to name any as negotiations are continuing.

Powers said producing a film is a significant investment.

“The cost of producing immersive films depends on the length of the film and how much (computer-generated imaging) is involved,” he said. “There’s vast range on the cost of production. Like any other type of film production, you can shoot something for $5,000 or $500,000.”

A vendor village sells food and beverage curated from local merchants. “It’s only vegan and vegetarian food,” Powers said. “We also have liquor, coffee and other beverages.”

The corporation plans to take over the F&B program in the near future. “We thought it easiest to start with the vendor village and then slowly take the operation over and install our own products,” Powers said.

Wisdome opened in December and operates Thursdays through Sundays. Entry costs $29; student and seniors pay $19, and children get in for $9. VIP can run as high as $120.

There are also special events in the domes, mostly on the weekends, and they can run anywhere between $30 and $120. “Those are priced by the popularity of the artist,” Powers said. Wisdome is also available for private events and parties.

“It’s going extremely well,” Powers said, though he wouldn’t give attendance numbers. “Right from the beginning, word-of-mouth and social media have created a big buzz in LA. We’re selling out many shows.”

Future Wisdomes are in early planning stages. “We can erect the domes easily almost anywhere,” said Powers. “We anticipate having one in every major city.”