Google has reportedly ended its partnership with IMAX that was initially intended to build a cinema-grade 360-degree camera. The first pilot VR centers to stem from that the prospects of that deal were opened a year later in various places around the globe. However, two of the seven total centers have now been closed down, according to IMAX representatives, and the remaining locations are up for review. The company has also revealed to Variety that it was Google who decided to end the partnership. No details have been provided by the search giant or IMAX with regard to why the program was being brought to an end. An unnamed source had alleged that the decision was made by Google near the end of 2017 and was the result of the company's decision to focus on AR instead.
Although the reasons behind the now-defunct partnership are limited, IMAX was spotted explaining in a recent earnings report that the company did receive a final contractual payment. Suggesting at least the initial agreed terms between the two had been fulfilled. In addition, and in spite of the unlikelihood of a joint venture continuing, it might not be the complete end of the project. For starters, the camera project is reported to have been placed on "pause" rather than outright canceled. IMAX also hasn't completely given up on the pilot theaters that are still under review either. While Google has certainly changed directions over the past year with primary efforts now centering around AR and A.I., the market for larger VR experiences has been increasing in size and viability.
Among other related developments in that space, even Facebook's Oculus division has begun examining interactive cinema-style experiences – going so far as to explore the use of real actors in real-time virtual worlds. At the same time, theater-scale VR experiences have opened around the world offering immersion into universes related to cinema. Those have included big blockbusters such as Terminator or the Alien franchise, among others, leaving plenty of room for growth. If that trend of exploration and expansion for the industry continues and results are promising, IMAX will likely be able to salvage some of its investment in the project.