Trouble in the 3D World? Sony to Stop Paying for Free RealD 3D Glasses

September 27, 2011
Source: THR

RealD 3D Glasses

While there are many issues with 3D nowadays, I believe one of its downfalls will be the glasses. While everyone has been hoping that technology will advance to the point where we won't even need glasses at all, in the meantime, 3D providers have tried everything from $100 designer glasses to throwaway freebies to special collector's editions. However, in the US at least, no one has to actually pay for glasses to see a 3D movie. While there's a premium price for 3D, which usually covers the cost, that might be about to change as Sony is putting their foot down and saying they'll no longer pay for RealD glasses (the "throwaway" kind).

Here's how it all started to begin with. Years ago, when the latest 3D craze was taking off, the question arose over who would pay the cost of 3D glasses (since they aren't free to make). At the time, Disney stepped up and told theaters they would cover the cost, mostly in hopes of encouraging more theaters to convert to 3D. It seemed to work and most studios followed their lead, but executives are claiming "it was never their intention to make it an indefinite policy." In terms of 3D glasses, each 3D provider (Dolby, RealD, XpanD, IMAX) has a system that requires using their own proprietary 3D glasses. Some of them (Dolby, XpanD, IMAX) use glasses the theater owns and must be returned on the way out, but RealD (who has the market share in the US) uses disposable glasses that can be thrown away, but are given out for free at every movie.

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Sony/Columbia Pictures sent a letter to exhibitors (aka movie theaters) today stating, firmly, that they will no longer pay for 3D glasses, beginning in May 2012. "This is an issue that has to be resolved between us and our exhibition partners. We are trying to give them a very lengthy lead time in regards to the change in policy," Sony president of distribution Rory Bruer said. The exhibitors haven't reacted yet, but you can be sure there'll be a very negative and heated response, and they'll likely push back. Obviously, though, with the content Sony has coming up next summer (mainly Men in Black III, The Amazing Spider-Man) theaters will want to show the films and they'll have no choice.

So why all the rabble to begin with? Well, the cost of 3D glasses can be upwards of $5 to $10 million for a single movie, so says THR. But they also go on to say that total costs can also be closer to $1.5 to $2 million, depending on the size of the film, how many theaters are showing it, expected attendance numbers and so on. Additionally, I have to imagine that RealD's cheap plastic disposable 3D glasses are cheaper than the expensive keepers from other 3D providers. But studios don't want to incur this cost anymore and instead are suggesting, potentially forcing, theaters to worry about glasses (and their cost) entirely on their own.

Here's the biggest sticking point. In THR's, article, they toss in this sentence, which should upset just about every moviegoer: "Sony, along with other studios, is in favor of moving toward an ownership model, requiring moviegoers to buy their 3D glasses at the theater (the studios argue that it could be a new revenue stream for exhibitors)." So not only will it already be more expensive to see 3D to begin with, but oh yea, you'll have to buy your own pair of 3D glasses when you see a 3D movie… or you won't be able to see it in 3D. Is anyone in Hollywood worried that this will anger consumers/moviegoers more than anyone else?

That's all the news their is now on this, simply that Sony is stepping up and being the first to firmly say starting next summer they're no longer paying. I expect to hear a response from the theaters, but my bigger concern is what will happen, and if consumers will be the ones forced to pay for glasses starting next year. If that turns out to be the case, there's likely going to be a bigger backlash from moviegoers than exhibitors. We'll definitely keep you updated on this 3D situation. Will you pay for glasses to see movies in 3D?

Find more posts: Discuss, Editorial, Movie News



Good thing I took like 4 pairs back when RealD first started and they didn't ask us to recycle them.

Brice Gilbert on Sep 27, 2011


I saved one of the RealD glasses and kept them. Now when I see a RealD movie in theatres I can pay for a 2D showing and go see it in 3D. problem, AMC?

Yarrpiracy on Sep 27, 2011


That's stealing...

peloquin on Sep 28, 2011


No, you know what's stealing? Read the article...

Ricardo_PT on Sep 28, 2011


boo hoo

Dukenukem150 on Sep 28, 2011


Interesting. I'm from New Zealand and we pay $1 for a pair of disposable 3D glasses when we see a movie but you don't have to throw them away. You can keep on using them. I've used the same pair for around 15 movies and they're still sweet. I think it really depends on how much the glasses will cost...

Buket on Sep 27, 2011


One of many reasons to move to New Zealand. Seriously though, its because movies, games, etc are much more expensive overseas that those markets have already solved this dumb problem, while us stateside folk gotta put up with half-assed management.

Anonymous on Sep 27, 2011


What's the extra $3 or $4 for then when you see a 3D movie? I always thought it was for the glasses. The 3D isn't even that good. It's not the 3D that everyone hopes (the "coming out at you" feeling), it's always RealD so it's just like having 2 backgrounds: 1 further back and the other at a normal position. I guarantee you that consumers will be mad (they/we already are when we have to pay the extra fee. I've worked at a theater, I know they get mad), but we can't do anything about it, so we'll just pay it. Ugh. Just my thoughts.

Txsrangerfan08 on Sep 27, 2011


There's a lot more that goes into that surcharge than just glasses. Think about the silver screens, the upgraded tech and the drastically increased cost of production. There's no doubt in my mind that 3D isn't worth the price most people pay, but there is a reason for the extra fee.

Grichmer on Sep 27, 2011


True, but we figured about 25 cents of that went to the actual cost of the glasses. You know considering the upgrades they would've eventually have to do in a few years anyway and the ever-increasing cost of movies.

Anonymous on Sep 27, 2011


Don't buy into this fake 3d crap. Wait till the real deal comes out.

Anonymous on Sep 27, 2011


Next time I see a film in 3D, I will simply keep the glasses.  Although I am not against buying a durable, permanent pair which would work on all 3D films. I assumed that the extra charge when you saw a 3D film was in part to cover the expense of the glasses....

John on Sep 27, 2011


why the heck are 3d movies so expensive then if we get the glasses for free? its not like they don't make millions in profit already without increasing the cost of movie just because its 3d. (personally, i think that 3d movies need to stop altogether. they are barely ever real 3d. its sucks and its just an excuse to get more money.)

dann on Sep 27, 2011


Ill be fine never seeing 3D again.

ur_babys_daddy on Sep 27, 2011


On very rare occasions have I seen a movie in 3-D. Transformers: Dark of the Moon was the last one and before that Tron Legacy. Both of those were films that I felt were specifically suited for 3-D.  The whole 3-D genre has been too diluted. If this forces studios to produce less 3-D films then so be it.

Joseph Kastner on Sep 27, 2011


In china they have these nice 3D glasses that people pay 100 rmb for and get you return it when the movies done.  It looks more like goggles than glasses, like the kind they give you at 3D IMAX movie theaters way back when I was in grade school and all they showed were animal/nature stuff.

KC on Sep 27, 2011


In Venezuela, we pay for 3d Glasses since these movies started showing, so...

Wylles on Sep 27, 2011


Maybe the Studios will now focus on Good 3d Movies, instead of 3d Crap that has you throwing your money out the window...

Wylles on Sep 27, 2011


Only in a RealD world; not the really real world. They'll still suck.

Anonymous on Sep 27, 2011


I'm a 2D movie man myself. Keep 3D in the theme parks, but outta my movie theaters. Maybe the 3D fad is finally coming to a halt....or so I can hope. 

Conrad Williams on Sep 27, 2011


this is great news, now 3D will go away.

happy camper on Sep 27, 2011


In Australia, well Melbourne anyway, we pay the extra to see the movie in 3D and $1 for the glasses, you can keep the glasses at the end. They do have these bins as you leave to throw them away. Personally i have about 5 of them, as i always seem to forget to bring them when i go see a film. I wouldn't car the slightest if 3D went away, Avatar and TF3 were the only 2 movies i enjoyed in 3D and have seen both since in 2d and still feel they were just as good..

MiKa on Sep 27, 2011


In Portugal RealD glasses were free at first but them theatres started to charge for them so people started to reuse their glasses. We still have to pay the 3D premium, obviously, but I rarely go to see a 3D movie.

Guest on Sep 28, 2011


Xerxexx if ever there was a post made for you, it's this one. Unleash hell.

Crapola on Sep 28, 2011


Ahhahahahahahah yesss! Bring the wrath of Xerxexx!

Alex Billington on Sep 28, 2011


@Crapola and Billington, I am ashamed of myself! I didn't even notice this article...damn, it was such an opportunity to attack 3-D. That being said, the article does a great job damning 3-D, Sony itself has done a wonderous job of hurting the gimmick that I'm not really needed. As always down with 3-D, down with 3-D!

Xerxexx on Sep 29, 2011


hey Xerxexx - then you'll love this: 3D is a 'gimmick', according to a new (UK) film poll http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-15075014

Anonymous on Sep 29, 2011



Xerxexx on Sep 29, 2011


In the UK we also pay extra for the movie and have to buy the glasses as well. I don't mind as it encourages me to keep them. The quality of them is alright and I have never really though of them as disposable. It's a greener world we live in and anything that encourages people to recycle must be a good thing. The £1 cost over 4 or 5 movies isn't really that bad. The only people that will really suffer are those that simply throw things away. In regards to the extra cost of the film itself, i suppose this is reflective of the increasing cost to cinemas upgrading to better projectors and screens to how 3d, and in turn 2d films. My love of film has never been cheap what with all the the cinema viewings, dvds and blu-rays that I have invested in, so there is not much point worrying now!!!!

IWelford on Sep 28, 2011


I agree, and I gotta say, if you cannot afford a one-time fee of 1-2 dollars for the 3D glasses, well.. then maybe you shouldn't use your money on the cinema. You buy the glasses one time, you save them and use them over and over again, just like normal glasses. I don't mind at all at least.

Anonymous on Sep 28, 2011


Exactly! We are not talking about Ye Olde 1 time use Cardboard 3d spectacular glasses! We are talking about fairly sturdy, multi-use plastic framed glasses.

IWelford on Sep 28, 2011


Good bye time for pain in ass and unnecessary 3D cinema...i hate 3D image and 3D fucking glass.

David on Sep 28, 2011


Its obvious who will end up paying for them! The public!! That's whats happened here in the UK - The tickets sales guy now asks if you want to purchase glasses - we bring our previous ones along for this reason - its win win, just makes sense to hold onto a pair and treat them nicely. Thing is, will higher prices mean fewer attendees? 

Dom on Sep 28, 2011


My biggest gripe with 3D is that the lenses tend to reflect a lot of the light - especially the projector from behind me and this causes all sorts of issues when trying to view the screen - the glasses need sides to block out light!

Dom on Sep 28, 2011


I think, Americans will not pay extra for 3D classes.  Good by 3D Fad! 

Alex O on Sep 28, 2011


Good. This will hopefully be the nail in the coffin for 3D. I have a feeling that when this happens, people will opt for the 2D version instead. Especially with people who have more than 1 child.

Chris Amaya on Sep 28, 2011


they ask you to recycle glasses, they dont make you, seeing as i have upwards of 30 pairs this doesnt bug me

Thatguy on Sep 28, 2011


What will happen is that RealD will make adjustments year to year to make the old glasses useless over time so you can't reuse them forever.  The last movie I saw in 3D was Captain America because the theater I saw it in didn't have a 2D option.  I went and saw it again later in 2D to see the stuff I missed the first time.

jim on Sep 28, 2011


So, I'm paying $12/seat to see a movie in 2D. They want $15/seat to see it in 3D. They'll soon want another couple extra bucks per glasses so I can see the movie I'm already paying $15/seat for? Yeah: good luck with that.

ferricoxide on Oct 9, 2011


I love, Love, LOVE 3D!  I am an American who wold GLADLY buy the glasses so I could reuse them every time.  I would love it even more if the $3 extra was removed by me having my own glasses.  I have wanted to own the glasses since the first time I saw a RealD 3D movie.  Sign me up!  Can I get them today?

Tomnjeri on Jan 29, 2012

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