IMAX shut down a number of its out-of-home VR Experience Centres a few months ago with the proviso that the company wouldn’t be making further investment into VR during 2019. What wasn’t certain at the time was the fate of the rest of its VR Centres. According to a recent Imax report filed with the SEC, the company is officially stepping away from VR with the closure of its three remaining locations.
In the statement, Imax says it “has decided to close its remaining VR locations and write-off certain VR content investments.”
Speaking to an Imax spokesperson, Variety obtained this statement confirming the closures:
“With the launch of the IMAX VR centre 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 IMAX VR centre pilot program and close the remaining three locations in Q1 2019.”
Two short years ago, Imax garnered $50 million in VC funding for its pilot VR program with the intent to not only open VR centres worldwide, but to create “at least 25 new interactive experiences,” something Imax CEO Richard L. Gelfond at the time called “a new level of premium, high-quality content for use throughout the VR ecosystem.”
Starting in early 2017, Imax opened a number of VR Experience Centres in major cities such as New York, L.A., Manchester, Bangkok, Shanghai, and Toronto. The ultimate aim was to bring movie-going crowds high-quality VR games and brand engagement experiences such as ILMxLab’s Star Wars: Trials on Tatoine, and showcase new VR tech such as Acer & Starbreeze’s wide field of view VR headset StarVR.
Starting in June 2018, the company closed one of its premier New York locations, which was soon followed by the closure of its only China-based facility in Shanghai. In October, the company announced the closure of its last remaining New York location at AMC Kips Bay.
Only two weeks ago. Imax closed its last remaining European location in Manchester, leaving only three locations carrying the Imax VR name: Toronto, LA, and Bangkok.
All three remaining locations are due to close sometime in the first quarter of 2019.