With 3D movie attendance steadily declining, it seemed 3D was on the way out, at least as an industry standard. A recent announcement from Sony seems to be just another nail in the coffin. They've announced that, effective May 1, 2012, they will stop paying for the 3D glasses supplied to theaters for their films. The glasses alone cost between $5 million and $10 million per film. Naturally, theater owners are furious at having to pay that cost out of their own pocket.
You can track the whole debacle at both Deadline and Hollywood Reporter. The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), issued a lengthy statement which included the following: "Recent press reports indicate that Sony has decided to stop providing 3D glasses to consumers and wants moviegoers to buy their own glasses. NATO believes Sony’s suggestion is insensitive to our patrons, particularly in the midst of continuing economic distress. 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."
They go on to express reservations about the shrinking window between theatrical releases and DVD/Video on Demand distribution, and to indicate that it "understood" that studios would foot the bill for 3D glasses since theaters forked over the cash to convert to the medium in the first place. Sony shot back a response of their own, which included the following: "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."
Neither side seems to be backing down, but you can tell by the tone of their full statements that neither wants to be antagonistic about it. Studios and distributors, theatrical and otherwise, have a symbiotic relationship and 3D has, predictably, strained it considerably, especially with attendance dropping radically.
Is this the death knell of 3D? We think it might be. If Sony doesn't cave, there's a good chance that theater owners will fight back by reducing the number of 3D movies they offer, since they'll have to justify significantly greater costs just to screen them, or worse… charge audiences even more per film. They'd probably be willing to shell out for a big release by Transformers, but smaller 3D productions like Shark Night 3D might be in serious trouble thanks to this development.
Time will tell how this whole fiasco pans out, but let's be honest, Hollywood: How long did you think 3D was going to last? It's a flash in the pan, and although it may never go away completely, every novelty wears off eventually.
CraveOnline will be back with more 3D news, if there ever is any. (Oh who are we kidding? Of course there will be…)