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The National Association of Theater Owners said Wednesday that Sony’s plan to stop paying for 3D glasses — effective May 1, 2012 — is “insensitive” to moviegoers, particularly in the midst of continued economic distress.
The trade org also issued a stern warning: “Sony would be well advised to revisit its decision.”
Moreover, NATO criticized Sony for not negotiating with theater owners before sending a letter last week stating the new policy. (Sony insiders counter the intent of the letter was to give plenty of notice so that it could work with exhibitors.) The letter was first reported by THR.
“The recent uproar over four studios’ unilateral decision to radically shorten the theatrical release window for their failed DirecTV premium VOD experiment vividly illustrates the downside of movie studios announcing fundamental changes to business models without negotiating with their exhibition partners first,” NATO said.
Regal Entertainment, one of the country’s three largest circuits, issued its own statement and warning.
“To the extent that Sony seeks to change the current model in a manner that shifts the costs to exhibitors, we would be forced to evaluate this new economic model and program our screens accordingly. This could result in fewer screens exhibiting 3D films. We are amenable to alternative models for distributing 3D glasses as long as the economics remain the same for exhibitors and our customers,” Regal CEO Amy Miles said.
Sony has two high-profile 3D tentpoles in summer 2012: Men in Black III and The Amazing Spider-Man.
NATO said moviegoers in North America have grown accustomed to being provided 3D glasses, and that it is an “established” part of the 3D experience that would be difficult to reverse.
Sony and other studios are suggesting behind the scenes that exhibitors adopt an ownership model, whereby theater owners sell 3D glasses to customers.
For their part, studios never intended to pay for 3D glasses indefinitely. Glasses can cost $5 million to $10 million per blockbuster release.
But theater owners counter that the onus has been on them to upgrade their theaters to 3D, an expensive proposition.
“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,” NATO continued in its statement.
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