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As home viewing technology for motion pictures continues to improve, movie theaters have to continue to find new ways to attract an audience. It appears that IMAX has an idea for one way to get people into their theater seats, virtual reality. The company responsible for some of the largest movie screens is looking to immerse their audience into the movies even more by providing ticket buyers with additional experiences via the growing technology of VR.
Head of IMAX Entertainment Greg Foster was speaking at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in Los Angeles this week when he announced his plans to roll out the VR experiences in Los Angeles first, followed by locations in China, where the company is currently expanding their presence. The plan is to create short, six to nine minute VR experiences that an IMAX viewer can add-on to the price of the movie ticket. The example given was that one could buy a ticket to see Star Wars: Episode VIII and also get an opportunity in a VR experience that feels like you're flying the Millennium Falcon. Unfortunately, it appears the Star Wars example was only a hypothetical one, not an indication of actual plans in motion.
While Los Angeles was only US city specifically mentioned. If you're interested in IMAX VR experiences, you may not have to wait too long. The Wrap quoted Greg Foster as saying that the plan is to roll out VR "arcades" to other IMAX locations as quickly as they possibly can, meaning that if you have an IMAX location near you, you could be seeing this sooner rather than later.
Traditionally, new technology for cinematic experiences has started at the movie theater before being adopted at home. Theaters started producing films in multi-channel surround sound and made 3D a standardized experience. Eventually, those technologies ended up in homes as well. It's an interesting twist to see IMAX now looking at VR as the next big thing, considering the technology already exists for those who can afford it. One would guess that the specific VR experiences that will be created will be exclusive to IMAX theaters, however, so it won't be something Oculus Rift users will be able to experience at home. At least not, initially. It certainly wouldn't be surprising to see them available for purchase after they leave theaters, just like the movies themselves, as an additional revenue stream.
As somebody who has really enjoyed virtual reality technology for video games, I'm certainly excited by the prospect of putting myself inside my favorite movies. Would you pay extra cash to add a VR experience to your IMAX movie ticket? Let us know in the comments.