A firestorm is erupting in the film distribution world as Sony Pictures announced yesterday that starting next spring, they will no longer be supplying 3D glasses to distributors for free with their 3D films and that theaters will be responsible for shouldering their cost.
Naturally, this enraged the National Association of theater Owners (NATO), who fired back to day with a press statement condemning the plan, accusing Sony of acting in bad faith by making the decision unilaterally. From NATO’s statement –
Since the onset of the digital 3D revolution in 2005 it has been understood that exhibitors would bear the weight of technological and facility modification costs related to 3D, while distribution took on the cost of 3D glasses. Any changes to that understanding must be undertaken through the mutual agreement of both sides of the business.
Sony, of course, is looking to increase its profit margins in any way it can. Their edict is set to start right at the beginning of the summer blockbuster season when they are releasing two big 3D films – The Amazing Spider-Man and Men In Black III. With glasses costing studios about fifty cents a pair, that can add up to $5 million per every $100 million in box office receipts.
But you have to remember that that box office number is inflated by the $2 to $3 extra that is charged onto 3D movie tickets, revenue that is split between the theater chains and the studios, so it’s not like the studios aren’t getting reimbursed for the expenditure, even if it is indirectly. That makes it hard to believe any cries from Sony over the expense for supplying 3D glasses to theater chains in the current set-up.
If Sony doesn’t back down, come next summer theaters will have to figure out how to handle the new expense. Will the chains just absorb the cost of the glasses themselves or that they will pass the new cost onto ticket buyers? I’m guessing that a further charge for 3D films will further push ticket buyers away from the from the format and towards the 2D versions of releases at an even faster rate than horrible 2D to 3D post-production conversations and poorly made 3D films already have.