Sony Refusing to Pay for 3D Glasses

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The hot-button issue of who should pay for 3D glasses -- Hollywood studios, exhibitors or even consumers -- is back.

Sony Pictures Entertainment has notified theater owners in a letter that, as of May, it will no longer finance 3D glasses. Sony might be the first studio to stake a definitive position, but other companies likely are considering taking the same stand. "We are trying to give them a lengthy lead time in regard to the change in policy," says Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer. On the other hand, many theater owners feel as if they've already coughed up enough money in converting their screens to 3D and that they shouldn't have to incur the cost of the glasses, too. The price tag for glasses is no laughing matter -- studios can spend $5 million to $10 million worldwide for a tentpole (they pay after the fact, based on how many glasses were actually used). Sony, along with other studios, is in favor of moving more toward an ownership model whereby moviegoers would buy their 3D glasses at the theater, which could be a new revenue stream for exhibitors. Such a system is already in place in the U.K., Australia, Italy and Spain. However, American consumers are now used to getting the glasses for free after they pay extra to see movies in 3D, and the habit could be hard to break. Several years ago, when digital 3D was emerging, it was unclear who would pay for the glasses. In an effort to encourage exhibitors to convert their screens, Disney told theaters it would cover the cost; other studios started following suit.