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IMAX May Bring Virtual Reality to a Movie Theater Near You This Year

Paris Games Week 2015  At Porte de Versailles In ParisParis Games Week 2015  At Porte de Versailles In Paris
A gamer plays a game with the virtual reality head-mounted display 'Playstation VR' during the 'Paris Games week.' Photograph by Chesnot — Getty Images

IMAX wants to bring virtual reality into the mainstream.

The cinema company, known for its giant movie screens and high-end cameras, said on Friday that it would create virtual reality entertainment hubs for movie theaters, shopping malls, and tourist spots across the United States.

IMAX said it would work with a Stockholm-based entertainment technology company, Starbreeze, on the project. Starbreeze will provide its StarVR VR headsets, VR video games, and films as part of the initiative.

Earlier this week, Starbreeze said that it and hardware maker Acer had formed a joint venture to help manufacture and commercialize its virtual reality headset.

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IMAX plans to open six virtual reality hubs worldwide this year. The first will be built in Los Angeles, according to the Wall Street Journal, but no date was given about when it would open.

IMAX (IMAX) chief executive Richard Gelfond told the Journal that the so-called “VR experiences” will last 10 minutes and cost $7 to $10. Presumably, these “VR experiences” will include video games created by Starbreeze or interactive short films presented in 360 degrees.

The cinema company also said that it wants to eventually provide “premium content” created from a new 360-degree camera that it will build in partnership with Google (GOOG). IMAX will also look to Hollywood studios and filmmakers to provide virtual reality movies for its six hubs, and, in its announcement, listed Hollywood director Michael Bay and Paramount Pictures as possible contributors.

“As a filmmaker, IMAX’s location-based VR offering presents an exciting opportunity to transport audiences even further into the worlds we create,” Bay said in a statement. “We are in advanced discussions with IMAX now on some fun VR concepts and I look forward to test-driving their new technology.”

Although virtual reality is hot with technology analysts who see it as a potentially huge future business, the reality is that the technology is still in its infancy. Expensive virtual reality headsets like Facebook’s (FB) Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive have only been available for a few months and they require powerful computers that put the cost out of reach of the average consumer.

However, those that have tried on the headsets seem to be pleased, and the reviews of both devices have generally been positive.

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IMAX’s new virtual reality hubs could create a new audience for virtual reality that otherwise wouldn’t have access because of the cost or access.

Earlier this month, Facebook-owned Oculus said it would let people try demos of its Oculus headset at 48 U.S. Best Buy (BBY) stores.