IMAX Corporation (NYSE:IMAX) and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment today announced a new virtual reality co-financing and production agreement to develop and release three premium, interactive VR experiences based on some of Warner Bros. Pictures’ most highly anticipated upcoming blockbuster films, including Justice League, Aquaman and a third experience that has yet to be announced. The companies plan to launch one experience each year – beginning with Justice League VR in late 2017 – with all to receive an exclusive window in IMAX VR centres before being made available to other VR platforms, including in-home and mobile offerings.
“It's fitting that with IMAX and Warner Bros.' shared history of launching Hollywood movies in IMAX theatres, today we’re entering into our first studio deal to bring original VR content to the multiplex,” said IMAX Corp. CEO Richard L. Gelfond. “A key component of our vision for VR is to help usher in the first wave of high-end blockbuster-based content. Justice League and Aquaman feature some of the most beloved characters on the planet, providing iconic properties to launch this effort. This type of premium content will introduce audiences to virtual reality in standalone and multiplex-based IMAX VR centres as well as other platforms.”
“We are excited to be partnering with IMAX to develop and deliver premium VR experiences, and believe that capitalizing on Justice League and Aquaman characters from our well-known DC properties will broaden the appeal of this fast growing technology,” said Ron Sanders, President, Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment Distribution. “Using content and characters from these upcoming films and incorporating creative direction from some of Hollywood’s most innovative filmmakers will help us to bring a groundbreaking experience to audiences and consumers who are hungry for a cutting-edge virtual reality experience.”
IMAX launched its flagship pilot IMAX VR Centre in Los Angeles in January, which is off to a strong start, and is set to open at least five additional centres in New York City, California, the UK and Shanghai in the coming few months. IMAX plans to use these pilot locations to 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 commercial locations such as shopping centers and tourist destinations.
The IMAX VR Fund, which was announced at the end of 2016, brings together leaders from the media, entertainment and technology sectors to aid in the creation of high quality VR content that can be leveraged across the burgeoning VR industry. The Fund will help finance the creation of roughly 25 interactive VR content experiences over the next three years – targeting premium, event-style productions with its Hollywood studio and filmmaker partners that complement IMAX's film slate, as well as gaming publishers and other leading content developers. Investors include IMAX, IMAX China, Acer, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), China Media Capital, The Raine Group, Studio City and WPP.
IMAX VR is a mind-shattering VR experience in a location-based, state-of-the-art Experience Centre. The IMAX VR Experience features a unique combination of premium technology and world-class content that lets users see, feel, move and play in new worlds in a powerfully immersive and realistic way, much like IMAX® theatres offer moviegoers a differentiated and best-in-class film experience. With groundbreaking VR headset technology, 360-degree sound and sophisticated room tracking, players will be instantly transported into new virtual worlds that are more realistic than anything imaginable.
The centres, which will be located in multiplexes, malls and other commercial and standalone destinations, employ a new modular design – proprietary to IMAX – that consists of several “pods” to allow multiple players to enjoy interactive, exciting, moveable VR experiences. The pods, which are designed to optimize user mobility and interaction in virtual environments, can be adapted for specific content experiences – whether single- or multi-player.