On its second day keynote at the Google I/O 2016 event, the tech giant announced collaborations with media partners including Paramount Pictures, Discovery Networks and IMAX for its new Jump VR platform. This includes a deal to open IMAX virtual reality cinemas to bring a more intimate viewing experience to consumers.
IMAX is planning to open at least six virtual reality cinemas in malls and multiplexes by the end of this year, with the first destined for Los Angeles. After which, it will expand to China. The venues will use cinema-grade VR headsets created by Swedish company Starbreeze in collaboration with Taiwanese firm Acer.
IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond believes that VR content would be strongly tied to existing movie franchises. These VR movies would last around 10 minutes and cost between $7 and $10. Gelfond wants to create a unique, immersive VR theatre experience that beats what you can get a home.
"Virtual reality in the home is going to be a crowded space, but we thought the idea of doing VR in the multiplex of the future was a place where we can provide a superior experience and a social experience, which are the same reasons people go to movies," said Gelfond. Starbreeze CEO Bo Andersson Klint added, "We’ll be able to leap five years ahead of what most people can do in their homes."
It’s not clear on what kind of content IMAX plans to monetize on with the virtual reality cinemas. Disney recently launched a free VR app featuring experiences such as a 360-degree film shot for users to watch movies like Star Wars, The Avengers, and Captain America: Civil War.