Imax Opening First European Virtual Reality Center in Manchester

THR Richard Gelfond 160428_Richard_Gelfond_173_FR - H 2016
Allison Michael Orenstein

THR Richard Gelfond 160428_Richard_Gelfond_173_FR - H 2016

The pilot Imax VR Center will open later this year, with the company already developing its first showroom and pilot VR center in L.A.

Imax is bringing virtual reality to Europe's cinemagoers, announcing plans on Tuesday to open the continent's first dedicated center in the British cultural capital of Manchester.

The pilot Imax VR center – part of an agreement between the Odeon & UCI Cinemas group – is due to open by the end of 2016 in the Printworks multiplex theater, and advanced discussions are said to be underway with several content developers, including Hollywood studios and games publishers, to produce dedicated virtual reality experiences. The company said that such experiences are expected to "range between 5 and 15 minutes in length each."

Imax also revealed that it was hoping to eventually incorporate content from the cinema-grade virtual reality camera it is developing in partnership with Google.

The new VR center is set to employ a new modular design – proprietary to IMAX – that will consist of several "pods" allowing multiple players to experience the technology simultaneously.

"For nearly 50 years, Imax’s mission has been to give audiences – of all ages and across generations -- a reason to get off their couches and leave the comfort of home to go out to the cinema," said Imax CEO Richard Gelfond. "Today’s agreement with Odeon marks an important milestone in our continued effort to deliver differentiated entertainment experiences – now through location-based VR."

In addition to the new announcement for the U.K., Imax is already developing is first showroom and pilot VR center in L.A. and says it is targeting additional test facilities in the U.S., China, Japan, the Middle East and Western Europe in the coming months.

locations open at end of the year," the Imax exec told investors as the giant screen exhibitor diversifies its Hollywood movie offering. "]