Sony to Theaters: Buy Your Own 3D Glasses

Sony becomes the latest studio to try to stick exhibitors with the glasses bill, which can run well over $5M for a big tentpole

Sony Pictures doesn’t want to pay for 3D glasses anymore, and is telling movie theaters that starting next May, they’ll have to cough up the cash, TheWrap has confirmed.

With glasses costing studios at least 50 cents per admission, costs for 3D eyeware can consume   $5 million or more for a movie that grosses over $100 million.

The National Association of Theater Owners did not respond to comment. 

However, this is not the first time a major studio has tried to move the cost burden of 3D eyewear to exhibition.

In 2009, prior to the release of its third "Ice Age" film, Fox told theaters it wouldn’t be paying for 3D glasses. Regal Cinemas — the nation’s largest chain — killed the idea by telling Fox that rather than paying, it’d only run the 2D version of  the film.

Disney established the precedent for studios paying for 3D glasses, when — in an effort to kickstart the digital-cinema market — it agreed to float the eyewear for the 2005 release of "Chicken Little."

Sony has a pair of big 3D films scheduled to be released next year: "Men in Black III" and "The Amazing Spider-Man" will be in theaters May 25 and July 3, respectively. The Beverly Hills-based RealD supplies the glasses, which it says cost less than 50 cents per pair.

It’s also keeping out of the battle.

In a statement released to TheWrap, RealD said, “We understand there are discussions between studios and exhibitors about domestic 3D glasses.  There are multiple business models for 3D glasses around the world and we are confident that domestic studios and exhibitors will work together to find an appropriate resolution for all parties.  As a global company that works within multiple business models for 3D glasses, RealD will support whatever decision is made between domestic exhibitors and studios.”

Moviegoers pay a premium of around $3 for 3D films. The money is split between theater owners and studios.

Theater owners, who have upgraded their screens to accommodate 3D movies, don't want to pay the additional cost, and studios, which pay in the neighborhood of $18 million in additional costs to make movies in 3D, don't want to incur it either.

And it's unlikely patrons will be willing to fork over more money for glasses in addition to higher-priced tickets.

Disney started the trend of paying for the glasses when 3D movies became resurgent several years ago.

A spokesman for the National Association of Theatre Owners did not return a message seeking comment.