IMAX calls it “location-based VR of the future”. The company’s first VR cinema has opened in Los Angeles after a slight delay. Here you can experience short VR sequences based on ‘Star Wars’, ‘John Wick’, ‘The Walk’, and more.
With plans to open more in 2017
The first “IMAX VR Experience Centre” is now open in Los Angeles, California. It was supposed to open in 2016 but got slightly delayed.
So what exactly is a VR cinema and how does it differ from VR at home? The answer is the experiences. IMAX is planning to fund content and offer it exclusively through its venues for a period, after which it will be sold through other platforms, including those at home. This is very similar to the current “window model” for movies.
As large-size 4K/HDR TV are entering the homes of many, cinema chains are looking for ways to differentiate the premium experience to avoid losing customers. By setting up VR locations users will also be able to try proper VR without having to invest big sums in equipment at home.
In Los Angeles, IMAX has set up 14 “futuristic pods” that use either the HTC Vive or StarVR headset. Tickets cost around $7 to $10 dollars, depending on the experience. These are fairly short 10-15-minute clips that usually revolve around a bigger movie theme.
For example, IMAX is currently screening ‘Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine’, ’John Wick Chronicles’, and ‘The Walk’. You can get a sense of the VR experiences on tap on IMAX’s order page.
IMAX sees virtual reality as supplementary to the traditional cinema experience rather than as a replacement.
- "One of my wishes is that a couple of years from now, people think of us not just for the experiences we provide now, but as a much broader entertainment company," Richard Gelfond, IMAX CEO, told Variety.
The company is planning to open an addition five VR cinemas in China, the UK, New York, and California in 2017. If the concept proves successful, IMAX will open even more venues globally.