Theaters to End Free 3D Glasses
Theaters and movie studios fight over who pays for the glasses.
These Polaroid 3D glasses sell for about $45.
September 29, 2011 by Grant Clauser

The good-old-days of free 3D glasses may be over, and it may end up costing you a lot. Did you think the extra $4-$6 you paid for a 3D movie paid for your glasses?

According to the Hollywood Reporter,  most of that extra money goes to the movie studios and at least part of it goes to paying for those 3D glasses they hand out at the beginning. Yes, those same glasses the theaters try to collect back and which about half of you probably pocket, are not actually provided by the theater . Those glasses filling up drawer somewhere at home are going to cost movie theaters a lot of money, and soon they’re not going to be giving them away.

Currently, movie studios supply the glasses at no charge to the theaters. The polarized glasses are essentially the same as the ones used by passive 3D TVs from makers like LG, Toshiba and Vizio and which sell for about $10. Sony pictures recently notified movie theaters that starting in May 2012 it will no longer supply the glasses (before it releases The Amazing Spiderman 3D in July). Other studios will likely follow suit. And the theaters are pissed.

Read our review of a Toshiba pass 3D TV.
Read our review of an LG passive 3D TV.

So what happens? Movie theaters will need to start buying the glasses themselves. Will they buy the same official RealD glasses? Will they still provide them for free and turn their back when you walk out of the theater with them? Will ticket prices go up (stupid question, of course they’ll go up)?

One likely scenario will be that theaters will offer to sell you glasses, probably at various quality, fashion and price levels. That’s where companies like Marchon may step in.

Recall a while ago when we told you about the 3D glasses vending machines that are slowly popping up in theaters? If the above scenario plays out, expect those to pop up a lot faster. You may have to get used to bringing your own 3D glasses to a movie rather than expecting to pick up a disposable set at the theater.

I’ve done this already anyway. I have a set of Polaroid 3D glasses I picked up as a sample from the Polaroid 3D booth last year at the Consumer Electronics Show. I prefer these glasses because they have wide sides that help prevent reflections. And they’re slightly curved like normal glasses. My wife calls me a nerd for bringing my own 3D glasses, and for other reasons.

This leads me to another thought—if the theaters are going to start charging for the glasses, will they also prevent you from bringing in your own (the way they warn you against bringing in your own snacks)? Probably not, but you never know.

Another scenario that could result from all this is less 3D movies. Amy Miles, the CEO of Regal Entertainment, one of the three largest theater companies, said as much in a statement: “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.”

My advice is to start stocking up on 3D glasses now. The next time you go to a 3D movie, take the glasses home with you (unless that’s stealing, which I wouldn’t want to endorse). Make sure that by next spring you’ve got plenty for the whole family. You might even get in the habit of keeping some in the car or in your purse (note: circular polarized glasses do not make good sunglasses) for impulse movies.

What do you think?

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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