As if the upcharge for 3D wasn’t enough, there’s the upcharge for 3D in a “premium” theater, and now, the extreme upcharge for your own pair of premium 3D glasses.
There are two that I recently came across on sale in my market. One is from a joint venture between StyleMark and REALD being sold under the Polaroid brand. The other is a REALD certified model from Oakley. The Polaroid glasses start at around $30 while the Oakley’s retail for $120.
A day after I tried on a pair at the local Oakley retail store, I ran into one patron at a Cinemark XD theater who had purchased one of their glasses. He let me experience the 3D trailers while wearing them, which I must say came across brighter and crisper than with the throwaway REALD glasses.
But there are limitations:
- The REALD glasses can only be used in REALD theaters, not with other 3D systems, such as Dolby, MasterImage, or IMAX.
- The glasses can also be used for 3D television sets, but they must use REALD’s passive technology. They will not work with linear polarizers or with active 3D technology.
- The Polaroid brand glasses provide limited UV protection. The Oakley’s are strictly for 3D viewing and cannot be used at all as sunglasses.
- Theaters are not offering a waiver of the 3D upcharge if you bring your own glasses, even if those glasses were purchased at the theater, as displayed below.
Just like airlines now charge a premium for everything that used to be included with your ticket, so goes the way of the theater. I predict that fairly soon, you will pay an upcharge, even if you bring your own glasses, and then a penalty upcharge on top of that if they need to loan you a pair (think how some grocery’s are now charging if you don’t bring your own bag).
Although IMAX still takes a large percentage of gross for movies shown in the format, it should be kept in mind that IMAX’s increased box office reflects a mass surge in the number of commercial IMAX theaters in the market – almost 100 more screens than this time last year. IMAX currently has just over 500 screens worldwide, the majority of which are 3D capable. REALD, on the other hand, is available on over 15,000 screens.
Richard Greenfield of investment firm BTIG published a report earlier this week showing a vast reduction in 3D viewings. He compared last year’s opening weekend of “Shrek Forever After,” which opened this time last year, with that of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” 7% of Shrek’s opening gross came from IMAX screens, while 54% came from REALD and other non-IMAX 3D systems. For Pirates, the numbers were 9% IMAX and 38% other 3D. Greenfield noted that the 38% of the gross was garnered on 46% of all screens. These numbers are reflective of domestic theaters only. Greenfield’s premise is that with the upcharge and consumer taste, theater patrons are tiring of 3D.
A number of my colleagues in the film industry are as well and they search out that gem of a theater also showing the same film in 2D. It’s not always easy, with the pressure from the studios and the desire to maintain additional revenue streams through 3D. It’s even more difficult in international markets. As one European colleague pointed out: “Why can’t I find Pirates 4 in 2D in a decent cinema? My kids and me would rather see it this way, even if we have to pay a premium. New business model coming up?”