Sony Pictures Entertainment has announced today that they will no longer pay to provide theaters across the world with 3D glasses for their films starting in May 2012. This shouldn’t be seen as too big of a surprise, considering the cost of providing these glasses can cost a studio between $5 million and $10 million, which is, my inside sources say, a metric f**k ton of clam chowdah. In a climate of shrinking profits and fewer people going to 3D movies, you can’t fault Sony for trying to improve on their bottom line. The National Association of Theater Owners (the confusingly acronymed NATO) fired right back, asking Sony to reconsider their decision, stating, “We are amenable to alternative models for distributing 3D glasses as long as the economics remain the same for exhibitors and our customers.” This, of course, lead Sony to invite theater owners to participate in a dialogue about the whole nasty situation.
Sony spokesman Steve Elzer had this to say: “”NATO’s statement that it has been ‘understood’ that distributors would always bear the cost of 3D glasses is incorrect, because there never has been any such agreement. In fact, we have been speaking with people in the industry for a long time about the need to move to a new model, so this certainly comes as a surprise to no one in the business.”
Now, I’m sure most of you are asking the same question I am: if this goes through, with no changes of plan or method between Sony and NATO, what of the price of a 3D ticket? The answer, frankly, is most likely that we, the consumers, will wind up having to pay a little extra at the box office for a 3D ticket to pay for the glasses. This isn’t a new idea, as many international markets already do this, but among American filmgoers, there’s almost an unspoken compact that the extra money you pay for the 3D movie should cover said glasses, when they mostly help to cover the theater’s extra costs implicit in playing 3D movies.
That being said, both Sony and NATO have stated they wish to find a third way here, where the customers don’t have to bear the brunt of the cost. I have a hard time believing this, as someone’s got to be paying the multi-million dollar price tag for those glasses, and in an environment where theater chains are shrinking due to low attendance, they’re not going to be able to pull this kind of money out of their butts.