Penrose VR animation studio raises $10 million from will.i.am, Marc Benioff

Penrose is a veteran of the film festival virtual-reality circuit.

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Joan E. Solsman
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Penrose's Arden's Wake, an animated VR story about a girl and her father living in a post-apocalyptic seascape, was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Penrose Studios, a virtual-reality animation company that's been a staple of film festival VR showcases, has raised $10 million from celebrities like Grammy winner will.i.am and Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff

The round was led by TransLink Capital, a venture capital firm that focuses on startups in their early or expansion stages. Other investors included Korea Telecom and Co-Made, as well as returning investors Sway Ventures, 8VC and Suffolk Equity. 

VR may be one of the hottest trends in tech, but consumers haven't embraced the format nearly as enthusiastically as tech giants like Facebook, Google and Samsung have. Without the allure of a must-see experience, mainstream consumers have been wary of buying pricey virtual-reality headsets and the computers to power them. Companies like Penrose are betting that making high-quality, filmlike experiences could be the trigger to get more people adopting VR. 

Penrose is a veteran of VR showcases at film festivals and, like others of its kind, has been courting Hollywood. The company's Arden's Wake: Tide's Fall, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, features the voices of Oscar winner Alicia Vikander and British actor Richard Armitage. 

"VR continues to be a breakthrough form of entertainment for all ages," said Eugene YK Chung, Penrose Studios founder and CEO. "As we participate in taking this new form of storytelling to the next level, we're proud to work with a great group of partners and investors to help us get there and continue to stand out and keep our momentum within the industry."

The studio said it would use the money from the funding round to pay to grow and to continue developing virtual and augmented reality movies and other experiences. 

Correction, 7:20 a.m. PT: This story originally misspelled Marc Benioff's first name..

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