Occulus, Gear VR, Samsung, Facebook

IMAX, the movie mega-giant, is branching out smaller screens, yet still managing to have a finger in every pie with its bid for public, shared VR experiences. The latest update for this project is a shiny new VR Center for Europe, one of multiple pilot locations for IMAX’s new push into virtual reality around the world, including the very first one currently being set up in LA. 

As the result of an agreement between IMAX and leading European exhibitor UCI Cinemas Group and ODEON, the first European pilot location will be in Printworks multiplex location in Manchester, England, and will open to the public before the end of 2016, according to an IMAX press release. The facilities are said to have a selection of VR experiences on offer, ranging from between a duration of 5 and 15 minutes. They will be sourced from both, Hollywood studios and from game publishers.

The IMAX VR Experience features a unique combination of premium technology that allows users to see, feel, move and play in new worlds in a “powerfully immersive and realistic way”, which is very similar to IMAX® theatres, with its vision to offer moviegoers a “differentiated” film experience. IMAX is working with Acer and Starbreeze AB to incorporate next-generation headset-mounted display (HMD) technology that offers industry-leading resolution and an extra-wide peripheral field of view.

Eventually, IMAX says that it’s going to use the VR Centers to content its developing with Google using “cinema-grade” VR cameras. The plans that have been charted out sound quite dystopian, with each VR Center being kitted out with several “pods,” which can work with either “single or multi-user” content and which “optimize user mobility and interaction in virtual environments.” The pod configurations will also be modular in a way that would allow the centers to be easily reconfigured.

IMAX Corp. CEO Richard L. Gelfond said in the press release:

“For nearly 50 years, IMAX’s mission has been to give audiences – of all ages and across generations – a reason to get off their couches and leave the comfort of home to go out to the cinema. Today’s agreement with ODEON marks an important milestone in our continued effort to deliver differentiated entertainment experiences – now through location-based VR,”

He also added:

“We are extremely pleased with the significant progress we’ve made on this initiative in this short period of time and believe this commitment from such a significant European exhibitor is a testament to the interest and potential of this offering. ODEON is a longtime partner that shares our vision in delivering guests the ultimate in premium experiences and we look forward to ushering in the next evolution of immersive entertainment with this test centre.”

Paul Donovan, CEO of ODEON & UCI Cinemas Group, also had something to say:

“We’re always looking for new ways to give our guests an even more immersive experience, so are very excited to be hosting Europe’s first IMAX VR centre at ODEON Printworks. We have a longstanding close relationship with IMAX which creates unforgettable experiences in many of our cinemas across Europe, so we are delighted to be alongside them again, at the cutting edge of innovation, to introduce and pilot awesome new technology which will delight our guests.”

The VR experience is all set to be IMAXified!

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