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Imax Closes New York VR Center, Forecasts No New VR Investments for 2019

Imax continues to scale down its virtual reality (VR) ambitions: The company closed its New York-based VR Center in recent days, bringing the total number of such closures up to 3. Separately, executives promised investors on the company’s Q3 earnings call that they wouldn’t spend any additional money on such projects in 2019.

The closure of the Imax VR Center at AMC Kips Bay was confirmed by a spokesperson Friday morning, who sent Variety the following statement:

“With the launch of the IMAX VR pilot program our intention was to test a variety of different concepts and locations to determine which approaches work well. After a trial period with VR centres in multiplexes, we have decided to conclude the AMC Kips Bay 15 IMAX VR pilot run.”

The now-closed VR center was housed in the lobby of the AMC Kips Bay multiplex in New York. It consisted of 12 VR pods, which offered access to a variety of VR games and experiences.

When it was opened in June of 2017, Imax CEO Richard Gelfond painted it as the first step of a much more ambitious roll-out. “We are excited to kick off our multiplex strategy by launching our first pilot location within a multiplex with AMC,” he said at the time, hinting at plans to launch additional theater outposts.

Imax had plans to launch a total of 10 VR centers in multiple countries by the end of that year. “If successful, the intent is to roll out the concept globally to select multiplexes as well as commercial locations such as shopping centers and tourist destinations,” the company said in a press release at the time.

However, this year, Imax has been striking a decidedly different tone. The company closed a separate New York location in June, and shut down its Shanghai VR center in early July.  “The consumer reaction was extremely positive, but the numbers just weren’t there,”  Gelfond said during an earnings call earlier this year.

After the Kips Bay closure, Imax is operating just 4 remaining VR centers, and executives made it clear to investors this week that they had no plans to ramp up that number with additional investments. “We’re not looking for new business projects,” said Imax CFO Patrick McClymont during Thursday’s earnings call. “We’re keenly focused on the core business. And that will be approach for next year as well.”

Company executives also attributed cost savings to the company’s “continued scale-back” of VR and other new business initiatives. This also includes the shuttering of another VR-related project: A cooperation with Google to build a high-end camera for cinematic VR capture was cancelled late last year, as Variety was first to report in August.

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