If you’re anything like me, news of cinemas embracing VR sounds like the desperate bid of a dying industry squeezed by the rise of Netflix and our on-demand addiction.
But maybe I was too quick to judge.
Last year IMAX revealed that it would start opening virtual reality experiences, in an attempt to bring expensive VR to the masses.
Now IMAX has said its experiment has been… a huge success.
The iconic Imax cinema at Waterloo.
The future of cinema?
“Our LA facility, which has been opened for roughly 3 months now, has seen over 20,000 unique visitors,” said IMAX CEO Richard Lewis Gelfond on Friday.
“From a revenue standpoint, the center is pacing at roughly $15,000 a week over the last month or so, including our highest grossing week to date, this past week, and continues to exceed expectations.”
Some back of a fag packet maths indicates this VR cinema could have made well over $100,000 in its first three months alone.
And Gelfond clearly thinks IMAX is on to something as he said the group will continue opening more centres in New York, Shanghai, Tokyo and Manchester in the coming months.
Content is king
While Gelfond is upbeat, he notes that the success or failure of his VR experiment really lies in the content that IMAX are able to deliver to visitors.
On that front IMAX has agreed a number of exclusive VR experiences from Warner Bros, around upcoming films like Justice League and Aquaman, along with a pipeline of 25 other VR experiences.
Gelfond says he anticipates even more deals in coming months and, just like the regular cinema, most of these will remain exclusive to IMAX’s VR centres for a time before those at home with VR kit can enjoy them too.
Is that enough to keep the excitement around VR cinema? Can IMAX entice people to come back for more? Or will VR cinema follow 3D cinema into the grave of bad movie ideas?