Five more pilot locations are slated to open this year.
Located in one of the highest traffic areas in LA, directly across the celebrity-studded Grove Shopping Center, stands a vibrant blue patterned building. You can’t miss it, but you’d never know it was open to the public — easily mistaking the building for a corporate office.
But don’t be fooled, this space is less corporate office and more full blown virtual reality arcade.
The IMAX VR Center located at 157 South Fairfax is the company’s flagship location and the first pilot location to bring premium virtual reality to consumers and tourists visiting LA from around the world.
Quietly launched earlier this year, the IMAX VR Center has already seen over 5,000 visitors come through their doors, 75% of which have never experienced VR in their lifetime. And the momentum is strong, with IMAX stating that paid admissions have been increasing 75% week over week.
Attracting a mix of LA locals and tourists visiting from out of town, the IMAX VR center features a unique combination of VR headsets and content for anyone looking to explore new virtual worlds without the hefty hardware investment.
IMAX is betting big on the future of VR and they know location-based is the best way to move the needle.
Upon entering the front entrance glass doors, you are greeted by a staff member behind a ticket counter. Much like you’d expect when visiting an IMAX movie theater, the VR center lets you purchase tickets in advance or on site for reserving time slots to experience the content of your choosing. Tickets will set you back $7 to $10 for 5 to 12 minute long experiences.
With tickets in hand, you are ushered into an on-boarding lobby area where you are asked to fill out a waiver before entering the world of virtual reality. In the lobby you glimpse VR trailers and short animated videos playing on the walls, prepping you for your VR experience.
When it’s your reservation time, a concierge brings you back into the main center of the building, which includes a players lounge surrounded by 14 futuristic looking pods purpose built for VR. The player’s lounge is where you get a quick briefing and make your way to your designated pod. The modular pods have low slung walls conducive to spectating and keeping the environment social.
The IMAX VR Center features a slate of single and multi-player VR content, some of which includes exclusives like Ubisoft/Skydance’s Archangel that drops you into the cockpit of a six-story-high war-machine, letting you battle it out with a tyrannical corporation taking over a post-apocalyptic America.
The majority of VR experiences available make use of the HTC Vive VR headset, letting you soar with friends in Eagle Flight, get in the ring for heavy boxing in Knockout League, walk a tightrope in The Walk, or battle your way through Raw Data or Star Wars’ Trial of Tatooine. Each pod is designated for specific content experiences, also utilizing Subpac haptic vests or a DBox chair in the case of Rabbids VR roller coaster ride. There’s even the John Wick VR experience we demoed earlier this month, but this time powered by Starbreeze’s Star VR headset with a motion-tracked MP-5 submachine gun.
The Los Angeles IMAX VR Center is just the first of six pilot locations to be opened in 2017. While the Los Angeles location is a standalone VR center, IMAX will begin building centers in existing movie theaters or multiplexes, utilizing the same modular pod-like format that can be configured to the space it will be filling.
In the coming months we can expect to see a center in the UK built in partnership with ODEON & UCI Cinema, as well as a center in Shanghai. Additional IMAX VR centers are also slated in the U.S. include New York and San Francisco in partnership with AMC and Regal Theaters. The pilot locations will test several factors including the overall customer experience, pricing models and the types of content featured. If successful, the intent is to roll out the concept globally to select multiplexes as well as to commercial locations such as shopping centers and tourist destinations.
As IMAX continues to push forward location-based VR, they are in a way pioneering an entirely new type of retail entertainment in U.S. With such a high profile tourist heavy location, IMAX can get a solid sampling of what different types of consumers are seeking from new medium and in turn, help propel the entire VR industry forward with key learnings and scalable first-time VR user awareness.
And with the multiplex movie experience dominated by big screen blockbusters filling the bulk seats, yet leaving many smaller theaters empty, IMAX VR centers may be just what is needed to make this the place to be over the weekend.