Sep 18 2015 - 4:45 pm

Canadian theater giant acquires WorldGaming, invests $15 million into esports

Esports are coming to the silver screen
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Esports are coming to the silver screen.

Now that’s not exactly a new thing, considering theaters around the world have broadcast esports events and viewing parties for a while now. But Canadian movie theater giant Cineplex is planning more. It's bringing the competitions not only to its screens, but into its theaters after paying $10 million to buy WorldGaming, a platform designed to host competitive video game events.

Cineplex plans to spend another $5 million developing its own esports league hosted in its theaters beginning in October, according to CBC News. The Cineplex league will reportedly feature local and regional tournaments feeding into a national event, with WorldGaming overseeing the operation.

The movie theater chain is one of the biggest in Canada and has already dipped its feet into esports, hosting viewing parties and other video game related activities throughout the Summer.

Esports represents an opportunity for Cineplex to leverage its theaters during the hours when movie-goers seem to have other things to do, whether by hosting events—with competitors on the stage in front of theater audience—or by streaming broadcasts of major international events on the big screen.

WorldGaming, formerly known as Virgin Gaming, has a checkered past in the esports arena. In 2011, the company announced a $1.6 million tournament coinciding with the launch of Battlefield 3. It would have been the biggest prize in esports history at the time. A video featuring Richard Branson himself introduced the event. But it never occurred.

More recently, WorldGaming partnered with the World Series of Video Games to host that organization's tournaments in 2015, with an Oct. 5 to 10 World Championship in the Maldives next on the schedule.

Watching to see if the Cineplex league gets off the ground will certainly be interesting. Esports is an international phenomenon where the largest portion of local and regional competition takes place online. Teams and players often only congregate for large events with money on the line. Cineplex is betting they can tap into a large audience of competitors by hosting smaller events across Canada.

So in some ways, their plan isn't to bring esports to the silver screen. It's to bring  it from a lonely dark room at home to a dark theater packed with people and the smell of popcorn and butter.

Photo by Rüdiger Wölk/Wikimedia (CC-BY-SA 2.5)

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