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Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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IMAX VR is coming for your wallets

imax
IMAX VR is coming for your wallets

Going to the movies is expensive. Where I live, movie tickets cost anywhere from $12 to $20, depending on the theater. In many cities across the United States, expensive movie tickets are the standard. And if you’re going to see a movie in IMAX, that price is nearly doubled. I try to avoid seeing anything in IMAX because of that high cost. The only time I recall shelling out that money was with my nana to see Watchmen (2009) on the oversized screen. I told her it was an “adult” superhero movie, but I left out the bit about Dr. Manhattan’s enlarged, omnipresent penis. She shot me a harsh look the first time it showed up on screen. Anyways, IMAX is about to get even more pricey, this time with the help of VR.

IMAX is about to get even more pricey

Early this summer, IMAX announced plans to jumpstart VR stations within theaters, working with Swedish company Starbreeze on the project. Recently, while speaking at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media Communications and Entertainment Conference in Los Angeles, IMAX entertainment boss Greg Foster revealed new details about the impending immersive theaters. But don’t go into these VR locales expecting entire movies invigorated with 360 degrees of action/romance/thrills/scares.

The VR spots will serve as a sort of add-on to the movie going experience. Foster offered the example of a person going to see Star Wars: Episode VIII, and heading to the VR space afterwards for a uniquely VR-crafted experience in the same universe. “These are six-to-nine minute content stories, fully separate, and you buy that ticket as well or buy it bundled with the IMAX movie presentation of Star Wars,” Foster told the conference.  

Imagine all these 3D glasses replaced with VR headsets.
Imagine all these 3D glasses replaced with VR headsets.

By the end of this year, IMAX plans to open six VR locations within other multiplexes and malls worldwide, the first destined for Los Angeles in particular. The headsets for the theaters are being developed by Starbreeze, who boast of a 210 degree field of immersion compared to the 110 degrees of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The numbers are getting higher!

While the VR experiences—I’m sorry, Content Stories—will be bite-sized rather than full-blown features adapted for the headset, Foster is intent on VR helping to bring audiences back to the movies again. “Other than the animated movies, we definitely hit a wall post-Captain America,” Foster explained. “The last four months have not exactly been what we want them to be.” It’s possible that if movie tickets weren’t roughly as expensive as a videogame, or if we had a better guiding light than Captain America 3, people would actually head out to the theaters as their leisure activity of choice. But hey—it’s in VR!

IMAX’s first six VR theaters will be open by the end of this year, with hopes of expanding to China shortly after.

Header image: Courtesy of IMAX

Second image: “Viewing 3D IMAX clips” by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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