If it's crap ... We'll tell you
The latest volley in the battle against 3D has just been struck by Sony Pictures. In a letter, the studio notified theater owners and exhibitors across the nation that as of May 1st, 2012 they will no longer be paying for the 3D glasses that are required for screenings of their 3D titles. As the current system stands, the price of the glasses is folded into the ticket price (about 50 cents each ticket) and the studios foot the bill while the theaters absorb the profit. A standard summer blockbuster can cost the studio anywhere in the range from $5-10 million dollars, and they've had enough.
Theater owners - already angry at the increased costs of renovating and converting their theaters to show 3D films and the ever-increasing fan backlash at the format - are not expected to take the news lightly. Will this mean another hike in 3D ticket sales as the theaters try to make back the money they're losing? Not likely as the much-higher pricing for 3D screenings is one of the lead factors in it's flagging numbers. There have been many suggestions as to how to best handle the situation, including increasing the rate of "recycled" glasses (in which glasses are collected at the end of the screening, disinfected, re-packaged, and re-used at the theater), or the possibility of an "ownership" system in which filmgoers would be given options to purchase their own glasses (which could again be a problem because who really wants to shell out $60 for a pair of licensed glasses just to see a handful of films a year?).
As 3D has been quickly rushed into theaters as a nationwide standard, it was initially unclear whether it would be the studio or the theater's responsibility to pay for the glasses and an interim system is now in place. However, with Sony making moves to limit their costs on 3D films and with several other large studios considering following suit, it may eventually mean a series of fundamental changes in the way 3D films are financed. As is usually the case with situations like this, it won't be the studios OR the theaters that feel the sting from these changes, it will likely be the movie-going public and their wallets.