Imax continues its departure from virtual reality (VR) with the closure of its sole European VR center in Manchester, U.K. With the shut-down of the Imax VR at Odeon, as the location was officially called, the company has now closed more than half of its VR centers.
The Imax VR Center in Manchester consisted of 10 VR pods that allowed consumers to play VR games like “Raw Data,” “Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay” and “Archangel” for £7.50 to £10.00 (around $9.50 to $12.75) a game.
Imax had opened its Manchester VR center in cooperation with the European theater chain Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group a year ago. Imax Europe & Africa exec Giovanni Dolci hailed the move at the time as the unveiling of “the next evolution of immersive entertainment in Europe,” and Odeon Cinemas Group managing director Mark Way claimed that the opening would make the Manchester theater “one of the most unique cinemas in the world.”
Imax VR centers had long been billed as an experiment, and a way for Imax to determine whether VR could be the next big thing for the company. Its original strategy called for the launch of roughly a dozen such VR centers around the world, which were supposed to be used to fine-tune the model for possible further expansion.
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In the end, Imax opened 7 centers, but quickly realized that the numbers simply didn’t add up. The company closed a New York VR center in June, and shut down its Shanghai VR center in early July. In October, it shuttered another New York location, and executives told investors that they didn’t anticipate any new investments in VR in 2019.
Separately, Imax and Google also ended their joint development of a cinematic VR camera. The fate of the company’s 3 remaining VR centers in Los Angeles, Toronto and Bangkok remains uncertain; a spokesperson declined to comment on the future of Imax’s VR efforts.