Richard Branson's Virgin Group is investing $4.2m in a joint venture with Toronto-based leisure centre operator MagiCorp to create two location-based entertainment facilities - one in Manchester, one in Toronto - featuring digital content delivered over cinema-sized screens and personal table-top monitors.

Dubbed Lucid, the joint venture's concept seeks to create a community of consumers in a large dedicated indoor space -- typically 40,000 square feet -- with a variety of inexpensive audio and visual content as the stimulant and food and beverage service as the revenue driver.

Alan Moore, MagiCorp president and COO, told Screendaily, "Lucid is the next generation of location-based entertainment, taking advantage of advances in large-screen projections and to record acts and events for a reasonable cost and possible broadcast." The deal with Virgin, he says, "is a strategic relationship with a serious content provider."

The Manchester facility will open at Easter 2002 with the Toronto facility to follow sometime in 2003 and yet other cities later. Moore said the entertainment will be event driven; for example, a sports event tapping the family market by day and then an appearance by a prominent DJ providing adult-oriented entertainment by night. Another attraction will be big screen, on-line Internet gameplay. The business hopes to retain consumer loyalty by maintaining a simultaneous web presence. "You can enjoy it on location and then participate at home over broadband." He said the web presence will be scaleable for areas where broadband is less developed.

Originally launched in Japan in 1993, MagiCorp was initially a consultancy in the leisure field. It is now pursuing opportunities in joint ventures. Moore said MagiCorp is also pursuing a joint venture with AcerSnowmec, a UK-based specialist in indoor snow hills. "It's conceivable that we could record a snowboard competition at one of our snowdomes that is then projected at the Lucid facilities."

"The key is the content," said Moore. "Everyday needs a new show, a fresh event."