IMAX Raises $50 Million for VR Centers, Content

Theater company and camera manufacturer IMAX has raised $50 million to help fund at least two dozen virtual reality centers in theater complexes and tourist areas around the world, with original content that will be available across at-home VR platforms.

The VR showrooms are expected to open in the U.S., China, Japan, the Middle East and Western Europe, featuring both single- and multi-user experiences, lasting between 5-15 minutes each. The first VR centers are expected to open in Los Angeles and Manchester, England.

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Consumer electronics company Acer, entertainment agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA), China Media Capital, Enlight Media, The Raine Group, investment firm Studio City, and marketing company WPP are among the investors in the endeavor.

"IMAX has built its legacy on using innovation and creative collaboration to drive the further adoption of new technologies. … We are expanding upon that legacy by teaming up with leaders across the media, entertainment and technology space to unlock a new level of premium, high-quality content for use throughout the VR ecosystem," said IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond, in a statement. "We will be leveraging our collective relationships with world-class filmmakers and content creators to fund VR experiences that excite and attract a larger user base to capitalize on opportunities across all VR platforms including IMAX VR."

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IMAX said it’s in negotiations with both Hollywood studios and game publishers for the VR content, and is in partnership with Google in developing the cinema-grade virtual reality camera that will be used for the experiences.

"With VR in its ascendancy, this initiative is a key step in ensuring that more high-quality content makes its way to various VR platforms, including IMAX VR centers," said Robert Lister, chief business development officer for IMAX. "We were extremely pleased with the significant interest we received from such a prominent group of investors, and together, we look forward to helping usher in the next generation of highly differentiated, highly immersive VR content experiences to audiences worldwide."