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IMAX To Bring Virtual Reality To A Movie Theater In the United Kingdom

October 11, 2016, 11:18 PM UTC
Photograph by Benjamin Torode — Getty Images

Virtual reality is coming to the United Kingdom.

Cinema company IMAX (IMAX) said Tuesday that it is partnering with European cinema operators ODEON and UCI Cinemas Group to open a so-called IMAX VR center at the movie theater complex in Manchester, England. The new center will open by the end of the year, IMAX said.

Visitors would be able to strap on virtual reality headsets and play VR video games or watch short films of roughly five to 15 minutes each. Stockholm-based entertainment technology company Starbreeze and hardware manufacturer Acer will provide the VR headsets.

The VR center will also include pods where attendees can play and watch VR content while moving around.

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“We are extremely pleased with the significant progress we’ve made on this initiative in this short period of time and believe this commitment from such a significant European exhibitor is a testament to the interest and potential of this offering,” IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond said in a statement.

IMAX did not say what type of VR video games, film, or other content will be available for attendees, only that it is “in advanced stages with several content developers, including Hollywood studios and gaming publishers, to produce and distribute high-quality VR experiences to its centers.”

In May, IMAX said it would open a similar VR entertainment hub in Los Angeles, but it did not say when that center would be complete. The company said Tuesday that it is still “in the process of launching” the Los Angeles center, which, when it opens, will be its first VR showroom.

Plans are in the works for IMAX to eventually open more VR hubs in China, Japan, the Middle East, Western Europe, and in more U.S. cities “in the coming months.”

These VR centers will essentially be test hubs that IMAX hopes to use to better determine pricing, the types of VR content that people want to see, and how well consumers react to them. From there, IMAX can plan a bigger worldwide rollout.

Technology investors and big companies like Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG) that have made VR headsets and software are paying close attention to virtual reality.

However, several analysts have lamented that there is not yet enough compelling content available to make virtual reality headsets must-have items.

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For consumers put off by the expensive cost of some powerful headsets like Facebook’s Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive that cost $600 and $800 respectively, visiting an IMAX VR hub could be one way they could experience the immersive technology without having to spend a lot of cash.