IMAX plans to bring virtual reality into theaters

In a move that we should have seen coming, IMAX announced that it’ll be rolling out virtual reality experiences in multiplex theaters, malls and similar locations later this year. The news comes on the heels of Google’s announcement yesterday that it’s building a cinema-quality virtual reality camera with IMAX. Given that it’s been delivering immersive theatrical experiences with giant screens for decades, it makes sense for IMAX to do something similar with smaller VR displays.

IMAX is tapping Swedish developer Starbreeze (who made the The Chronicles of Riddick and Payday games) to use its software platform and StarVR headset, which is notable for offering a 210-degree field of view (twice as much as the Oculus Rift). Earlier this week, Starbreeze also announced that Acer will be helping it build those VR headsets.

Naturally, IMAX also hopes to tap into its Hollywood connections to create VR experiences tied to major films. Richard Gelfond, the company’s CEO,tells the WSJ that he could see charging around $7 to $10 for a 10-minute long VR experience. That might sound a bit much, but given all the hardware and maintenance that VR requires, I wouldn’t be surprised if the final pricing ends up close to that range.

IMAX plans to launch its VR experiences in six locations globally by the end of the year. Ultimately, it will license the technology similar to how it handles screens today: Theater owners will license the VR experiences and pay IMAX a part of the revenue.


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