According to Variety, Imax has closed its New York VR Centre – the third VR centre the company has closed this year. They have also announced they will make no further investments into VR next year.
The Imax VR Center at AMC Kips Bay is the second New York location to close this year.
A spokesperson told Variety: “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 company closed a different New York VR centre in June. The Shanghai centre was closed in early July.
The reasons cited were financial. Although Imax’s seven VR centres have been popular with visitors, only one has met financial expectations. The company has not ruled out the possibility of scrapping all of the centres.
Imax CFO Patrick McClymont said: “We’re not looking for new business projects,” said . “We’re keenly focused on the core business. And that will be approach for next year as well.”
The future of VR
Variety reports that the failure of these centres was down to a number of factors. Imax found it difficult to obtain titles with name recognition that could draw in crowds. While the company is known for showing big budget blockbusters in their theatres, these blockbusters don’t exist in the VR world. Imax did set up a $10 million dollar fund for the creation of more appealing VR content, but so far it has only invested $4 million into production.
It is also unclear whether VR and traditional theaters will actually complement one another. It was hoped that Imax VR would lure younger audiences back into theatres. Effectively, then, VR would work as a promotional vehicle for the big screen.
However, Odeon Cinema in Manchester has flipped this model. They have given theatregoers free tickets to VR experiences when they buy movie tickets.