Sony Pictures will be the first to no longer pay for the 3D glasses The Hollywood Reporter uh, reported (sorry) yesterday that Sony Pictures will be the first of the major studios to no longer pay for the 3D glasses in the Real-D format (as opposed to specialized IMAX 3D glasses), but rather demand that exhibitors pay for the $3-4 glasses themselves. Several studios have apparently been looking into such an arrangement, but Sony struck first blood, in a move that could have devastating consequences for the 3D movie business in America. The policy is set to go into effect May of next year, just in time for Sony’s two big summer films, both live-action 3D franchise pictures. Men in Black 3D comes out over Memorial Day weekend while The Amazing Spider-Man drops on July 3rd. While the reality is that the situation won’t affect most kinds of 3D (Real-D is just one of several kinds offered in first-run theaters today), the perception could do real damage to the format if the theaters choose to pass down this extra expense to the consumers. And all-things considered, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t.

Right now, theaters get those $3-4 glasses from the studios for free. But if they were forced to fork over said extra cash for each pair of glasses used, they would pretty much negate the $3-5 3D-ticket up-charge they currently enjoy for a 3D film. Moreover, since theaters split their ticket revenues with the studios to varying degrees (generally 50/50, but sometimes MUCH lower for the theaters in the first ten days), theaters are technically looking at a loss for each 3D ticket sold compared to what they would have made for that 2D ticket. If an audience member pays $10 for a 2D evening show, the theater gets around $5 of that ticket, right? But if the theater charges $15 for the 3D show, AND must pay the studios $4 for the pair of glasses, then the theater is looking at just $3.50 for that 3D showing. So, unless I did the math wrong (always possible…), a theater chain showing a film in 2D and Real-D 3D would have to either charge the consumer an additional $4 for the privilege of buying the glasses or eat the extra cost, an extra cost that would make said theater disinclined to show the film in 3D if they have a choice in the matter. Better to make $5 showing The Amazing Spider-Man 2D then make $3.50 showing The Amazing Spider-Man 3D.

So if the theater owners want to at least restore the prior profit margin for 3D films, they’d have little choice but to charge consumers for those 3D glasses. The problem here is one of perception. While many overseas markets already charge consumers for the 3D glasses they use, America thus-far does not. But, most moviegoers arguably operate under the perception that some, if not most, of that $3-5 3D ticket up-charge comes from the rental of those 3D glasses. Telling them that they have to pay that up charge AND an additional $4 to see a movie in 3D will either drive them away from the format or (worse for the theaters) severely cut into their purchase of concessions.

Photo by Sony Pictures

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One Comment

  • September 30, 2011 | Permalink |

    If I am given the option to bring my own 3D glasses or buy a pair at the ticket stand, I don’t care if they charge extra. I have a pair of Harry Potter commemorative 3D glasses and it would give me a chance to use them. But if the upcharge is a mandatory part of the ticket’s price, that would raise my objections. I’m not opposed to having to buy my 3D glasses, I just don’t want to do it over, and over and over. What am I going to do with a drawer full of crappy plastic glasses? It’s not the extra money I object to as much as the extra waste. Our theater has us recycle them for the next movies, so why can’t we?

    Also, if I am forced to have to buy my own 3D glasses, I’d go buy a good prescription pair. I hate the way those things fit over my glasses,…

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