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VRstudios CEO Kevin Vitale. (Photo via VRstudios)

VRstudios is expanding in Canada thanks to a new investment from a cinema giant.

The Seattle-area startup announced that publicly-traded Canadian movie theater operator Cineplex has acquired a “significant ownership” of VRstudios, which will help Cineplex install 30-to-40 virtual reality systems by the end of 2021.

A VRstudios spokesperson declined to provide more details about the deal.

“Cineplex is one of the world’s leading entertainment companies and we are honoured to be working in partnership with them to drive further innovation in the location-based VR marketplace,” VRstudios CEO Kevin Vitale said in a statement. “There is great synergy in our respective visions for scaling VR in commercial entertainment and the enterprise-wide strategy to make it happen.”

Cineplex operates 165 theaters across Canada. Its investment in VRstudios will help the company expand into “location-based entertainment,” which provides access to room-scale virtual reality experiences outside of the home and is one of the early use cases of VR technology. Cineplex previously partnered with VRstudios to install an attraction in Alberta, Canada, before the investment deal was announced.

Founded in 2014, VRstudios has deployed 65 systems across 15 countries at various locations including casinos, theme parks, arcades, and family entertainment centers such as Dave and Buster’s. The company raised an additional $2.2 million investment round in June.

As GeekWire reported, VR and AR haven’t seen mainstream consumer adoption, partly due to low headset sales. But VRstudios has found a niche, giving its clients a way to offer the VR experience to customers at physical locations. The company provides everything from hardware integration to daily operations to management reporting.

VRstudios originally launched seven years ago as a virtual reality gaming company called VRcade. In July 2014, it restructured as VRstudios Inc. with a revamped business model that expanded beyond gaming and into additional commercial enterprise simulation opportunities. But last year the company doubled down on its location-based entertainment business.

Cineplex reported revenue of $409 million (CAD) for the second quarter of 2018, up 12 percent. Its stock has dipped slightly over the past year and is trading at $32 per share.

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