IMAX is shuttering its standalone VR experiences after a lacklustre response from consumers. That’s despite the firm heavily investing in the format in the hope that it would revitalise the public’s love of going to the cinema.
It’s estimated that $50 million was raised by IMAX to fund the roll-out of VR experiences to 25 locations across the world. Out of those 25, just three locations are open to the public today, and according to a recent SEC filing, those are set to close in Q1 2019. That heralds the end to IMAX’s venture into VR.
The writing has been on the wall for VR at IMAX for quite some time, with the firm’s CEO Richard Gelford admitting in an earnings call that ‘the numbers just weren’t there’. The problem isn’t isolated to IMAX, however, other firms have sometimes struggled to make VR work. Despite promising to ‘revolutionise’ the rollercoaster experience, VR has largely been removed from some big-name coasters, including ones at SeaWorld Orlando and Alton Towers. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are also no longer the darlings of the tech industry.
There is some hope for the VR format however, with certain firms able to carve a market out for themselves with immersive story-driven experiences. That list includes the likes of The VOID and Dreamscape Immersive, with the former leaning on Disney properties to drive traffic to its VR experiences. Unlike IMAX, these experiences rely on moving around a physical space and taking on a role, rather than sitting and being immersed in an existing film world.
VR is here to stay, with The VOID and Dreamscape Immersive both set to increase the number of locations offering the technology in the new year, but for IMAX, the days are numbered for its final three locations.