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5 things we love about the new IMAX VR arcade

By Joss Davidge

Virtual reality technology has taken yet another big step towards mainstream acceptance with the recent successful launch of IMAX’s VR arcade in Los Angeles.

Since opening its doors earlier this year, the LA facility has attracted over 20,000 unique visitors and generated average revenues of $15,000 a week, exceeding the company’s initial expectations.

The flagship arcade from the masters of the big screen has garnered rave reviews so far, and has also offered up a few surprises. As lovers and keen advocates of VR and its endless possibilities, we’re excited about IMAX’s bold new move. Here’s what we’ve learnt so far.

1) It’s a lot cheaper than you’d expect

To gain a first-hand glimpse of the future of VR in entertainment, you’d expect to pay top dollar. But IMAX’s VR arcade is selling tickets priced between $7-$10 per VR experience, making it completely accessible to non-techie audiences. Entry is free, so it’s completely up to visitors to invest in any experiences that catch their eye.ImaxVR01.jpg

And so far that gamble seems to have paid off, with couples and families alike reportedly flocking to it in droves to sample the experience. With VR having already overcome so many hurdles to reach this point, we’re glad that a high price tag isn’t set to be another one.

2) It’s already attracting big names

Of course it’s early days, but already the IMAX Arcade has attracted some big name buy-in including Star Wars: Trials On Tatooine and the John Wick Chronicles, a VR experience based on 2014’s Keanu Reeves action flick. 

With the LA facility boasting 14 VR “pods” equipped with the enticing combination of HTC Vive and StarVR headsets, that’s a lot of space to fill and a giant opportunity for many more well-known brands to step up to the challenge.

3) It’s beautifully designed

The IMAX brand is synonymous with delivering jaw-dropping viewing experiences to spectators, so it should come as little surprise that the brand has pulled out all the stops in the design of its LA facility. With a futuristic feel, curved white walls and video screen posters, it impresses within the first few moments of arrival.ImaxVR02-1.jpg

Throughout the facility, the aesthetic emphasis has clearly been placed on presenting a clean and futuristic look and feel, with computers deftly hidden above the pods themselves and “headset cables wrangled overhead via a pulley system.” While there have been some reported issues with the pods themselves and the associated headsets, we’re sure that it’s nothing that can’t, and won’t, be overcome.

4) It really is the future of cinema

VR isn’t a phase that’s going anywhere soon – it’s unquestionably here to stay, and the LA facility is the tip of the iceberg. IMAX has started a $50 million fund for the production of VR experiences, so going forward we can expect to see many more VR experiences that have strong conceptual and artistic merit.ImaxVR03.jpg

With such heavy backing and support, we’re undoubtedly set to soon have the chance to enjoy VR experiences that take movie-going to a whole extra dimension. But of course, IMAX isn’t unique in this – we’ve already seen Madame Tussaud’s deliver a slime-tastic Ghostbusters experience to movie fans in New York.

5) LA is just the beginning

Situated just across from The Grove, LA’s iconic shopping mecca, the IMAX VR arcade is in a prime location to attract visitors. But if reports are to be believed, its early success means that we’re likely to see many more of these popping up in cities worldwide in the not-too-distant future. New York City, Shanghai and Manchester are all on IMAX’s radar, with Tokyo likely to be the next major city to open a similar facility on such a large scale. Watch this space.

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