It can be hard for old-timers like me to not think of cheesy Lawnmower Man and (awesome but simple) Battletech when the topic of VR emerges. We clearly need to don some goggles, open our eyes, and pay attention to this rapidly changing and expanding technology. The apparatuses and available content are definitely on the upswing but we're also clearly in a transitional moment.
This article from Variety reports on the likely (upcoming?) addition of location-based VR to IMAX movie theaters. In large part this seems like an obvious coupling: IMAX and VR are both about immersive media experiences. On the other hand, they are quite different and from what I can see the IMAX attributes are taking up the foreground space here.
VR has the promise to transport you elsewhere from wherever you are. Anchoring VR to a specific location makes sense for exploring a new technology, but it's really beside the point. IMAX, on the other hand, has to be location-specific. Special auditoriums are decked out with specific equipment from massive screens to audio to projection (and glasses of course). You can't move an IMAX theater without a substantial investment.
In terms of content, movies are arguably less interactive then other digital media formats. VR is designed to place you in a virtual context in which you can interact. These two forms of media engagement are not in diametric opposition, but they are vastly different. Filmmakers have been trying to figure out how to make film more interactive for a while now, and this new move from IMAX may be a gesture toward a more interactive cinema.
What IMAX is proposing seems to pull aspects of VR into the theater context, but the experiential goal is unclear. Would you wear googles to see the movie, rendering projection and a big screen unnecessary? Would you play a game related to a film, right after seeing the movie (this seems like the idea, given the reference to the John Wick game)? We'll have to wait and see. For now, the plan raises compelling questions for content, exhibition, synergy, convergence, and engagement.