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Imax Wants to Add Virtual Reality Lounges to Its Theaters

IMAX wants to take movie-going to the next level: The 3D theater chain has struck an alliance with Swedish gaming and virtual reality (VR) specialist Starbreeze to develop location-based VR experiences at some of its theaters as well as shopping malls and other locations. Plans are underway to test the concept at a first “IMAX VR” location. And if audiences like it, the two companies aim to make IMAX VR globally available.

“We believe VR is an area that holds tremendous promise and is a natural progression for IMAX given our established worldwide brand presence, our immersive entertainment technology know-how, and strong industry relationships with filmmakers, studios and exhibitors,” said IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond.

The idea for location-based VR entertainment is an interesting one. High-end VR experiences with positional tracking are expensive. The HTC Vive for example sells for $800, and also requires a $1000 high-end gaming PC to run VR experiences. IMAX would be able to go beyond what these devices have to offer by also adding other imagineering techniques for an even more immersive experience. Think wind machines, vibrating floors and more.

IMAX’s partnership with Starbreeze also gives the theater chain access to a catalog of games and other VR content, including the “John Wick” VR game that Starbreeze developed together with Lionsgate. And IMAX will also be producing some of its own VR content, thanks to a partnership with Google that has the company building its own VR camera.

IMAX is already getting support from some of Hollywood’s top talent for its VR initiative. One of its first big-name partners is none other than Michael Bay. “As a filmmaker, IMAX’s location-based VR offering presents an exciting opportunity to transport audiences even further into the worlds we create,” Bay said. “We are in advanced discussions with IMAX now on some fun VR concepts and I look forward to test-driving their new technology.”

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