Movie Theaters Upset, Won't Approve Sony's New 3D Glasses Policy
We promised to keep you updated, so here is the latest. Following news this week that Sony announced it wouldn't be paying for 3D glasses starting next summer, as expected, movie theaters are now up in arms. The National Association of Theater Owners (aka NATO) released a statement, via Deadline, saying that "Sony's suggestion is insensitive to our patrons, particularly in the midst of continuing economic distress" and acknowledges that providing 3D glasses on the cost of the studios was, at least for the US, "established as part of the 3D experience." It doesn't look too good for the studios, but we expected this kind of response.
In the few days since Sony announced it would be the first to step away from paying for 3D glasses, there's been quite a rabble in the exhibition world. The short story is that at the moment, nothing is set until they can discuss things further at ShowEast, an industry convention, later this month. NATO's statement says: "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." In turn, Sony has said, here's our chance, let's talk it out and find a shared solution.
We can only hope that both sides are smart enough not to put the costs back on the consumer. While other moviegoers around the world have to pay $1 or more for 3D glasses upon going in, here in the US its been part of the system all along that we receive glasses for free with the ticket when we go into a 3D movie. It would disrupt what consumers have come to expect if they have to pay more and only hurt movie-going - but may help Hollywood shift its focus back to 2D (and away from so much 3D) and other options like IMAX or better framerates. Of course, with a studio behind the decision not to pay, they must have a plan for this, or they wouldn't be releasing two huge 3D movies next summer (Amazing Spider-Man, Men in Black III).
"With theaters united and studios split, we see little chance of a studio victory," one analyst tells Deadline, adding that it's also unlikely moviegoers will be made to pay for 3D glasses, but it's still early on. "Sony's actions raise serious concerns for our members who believe that provision of 3D glasses to patrons is well established as part of the 3D experience," NATO says. But apparently Sony really wants to work this out and figure out a mutual agreement, where the cost is split, or covered in other creative ways. After releasing the NATO statement, Sony put out another one of their own, firing back with their response. In full here:
There are constructive ways to deal with the cost of 3D glasses that will not adversely impact consumers, and can also help the environment.
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.
We invite theater owners to engage in a collegial dialogue with us about this issue, including at ShowEast next month. By working together on a business-to-business basis, we are confident a reasonable solution can be reached that brings benefits to consumers, the entertainment industry and the environment.
They're fighting press release to press release out in the public now, at the least to setup the discussion at ShowEast, which is rather interesting to see, but it sounds like Sony is adamant on no longer paying for 3D glasses. They really don't want to have to pay anymore, so the question becomes: who will instead? If the theaters don't want to, is it the moviegoers? Can the studios seriously be thinking of pushing the costs elsewhere, or do they want the theaters to oblige? The LA Times talked with the president of domestic distribution for 20th Century Fox, who said he "applauded" Sony's decision, adding that "I am revisiting this issue as well." Looks like there's a studios vs. theaters war abrewing if things don't get patched up soon.
I fully expected NATO and the movie theaters to respond in this way, I was just waiting for it to happen. But truthfully, it's a tough debate, neither side wants to pay fully or agree to a solution, so what else can they do but bicker back and forth until someone comes up with something. I just hope that they keep the consumer in mind. While I recognize that other parts of the world pay for 3D glasses, and spending $1 to pick up a pair wouldn't hurt, it's going to cause even more people to complain about going to the movies. If only they'd take off that extra premium price for 3D tickets to begin with, that might make spending a little more money for glasses seem reasonable, but it's not going to work many other ways. Only time will tell what happens.
Who will back down first: the movie studios or movie theaters? You can read full statements from both sides on Deadline. There hasn't been any other official response from either party yet, or other studios, since the news first hit, but we'll continue to keep you updated. Will they be able to find a reasonable solution?