Some industry professionals will look back at September 27, 2011 as the day motion picture studios took their first step on what may be a long road to end the practice of subsidizing 3D glasses for their movies. Others will remember it as the day the inevitable finally happened.
For those who still aren’t aware of the events of the past week, I’d like to be the first to officially welcome you to the planet earth and invite you to join us as we read between-the-lines of this latest industry scuffle. On Tuesday of this week The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Sony Pictures Entertainment had sent a letter to North American theatre owners stating as of May 1, 2012 they would no longer pay for 3D glasses. What makes this major industry news is that Twentieth Century Fox tried a similar move back in 2009 with the release of “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” but retreated when exhibitors revolted en masse. They now fear Sony might succeed this time around causing other studios to follow suit. Talking to the Reporter, Sony’s president of worldwide distribution. Rory Bruer said:
“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.”
As one might expect, it didn’t take long for the National Association of Theatre Owners, the trade organization which represents exhibitors, to respond to Sony’s move. Their press release dated September 28, 2011 stated:
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… we are concerned that Sony’s attempt to change this business model would unilaterally upend long-standing industry practices… Sony would be well advised to revisit its decision.
There were some grumblings from theatre owners and the media that NATO’s statement had no bite, though making sweeping threats is not necessarily their responsibility. This is not true of the organization’s members, like Amy Miles, chief executive officer of Regal Entertainment, who said if Sony stuck with their announced plan to stop paying for 3D glasses, then her circuit might show 2D version’s of Sony’s films in the future.