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IMAX Officially Bails on VR Business

In the end, Imax’s VR experiences were not long for the real world.
In the end, Imax’s VR experiences were not long for the real world.
Photo: Getty Images

After investing in virtual reality experiences, IMAX has officially decided to cut its losses. In an SEC filing yesterday, the company revealed it’ll shutter its remaining three VR theaters—including its flagship location in Los Angeles—in early 2019 and write off “certain VR content investments.”

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This tracks with how the company has gradually moved away from VR over the last year. While IMAX launched its VR program in early 2017, it has since closed four of its seven VR centers. It closed two New York-based VR centers in June and October, while axing its Shanghai location in July. Most recently, it shuttered its Manchester VR center in late November. A joint project with Google to build a line of VR cameras also went kaput in August, with IMAX saying it was rethinking the viability of its VR program.

In a statement to Variety, the company said it had intended to “test a variety of different concepts and locations to determine which approaches work well.” But in an earnings call earlier this year, IMAX claimed that while customer reactions were positive, there just wasn’t enough foot traffic to justify the cost.

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Well, at least IMAX has other things in the works—it’s recently been in talks with major streaming platforms about possible theatrical releases. But in the meantime, pour one out for IMAX’s VR dreams.

[Engadget, Variety]

Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.

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DISCUSSION

Pretty easy - it was way too expensive. Like 10 or 15 bucks for 3 minutes. Also had the “arcades post-console problem” - they were primarily using htc vive experiences that could be played at home if someone was that into VR. Finally most people haven’t tried VR so it’s an unknown quantity to them and they aren’t gonna try it when they’re already rushing to a movie at the same theater (which is where I believe most IMAX VR stations were situated).