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No more free 3-D specs?

Glasses for 3-D movies have always been subsidized by studios. But Sony says it’s done paying — and other studios could follow. Will you have to foot the bill?

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When it comes to 3-D glasses, Sony and theater owners don’t see eye to eye. The studio has announced that starting in May 2012 — in time for the release of its 3-D tentpole The Amazing Spider-Man — it will no longer cover the cost of 3-D glasses. (Other studios have yet to comment on their plans.) So on top of the surcharge typically tacked on to 3-D tickets by theaters (usually $3 to $4.50), someone will have to pay roughly $0.50 for each pair of glasses, too.

Theater owners don’t think that job should fall to them — or ticket buyers. ”In [this] economy…it’s really not a good time to be confronting our customers with an additional charge,” says Patrick Corcoran, a rep for the National Association of Theatre Owners. He says that Sony’s decision violates a ”basic understanding” that studios pay for the glasses, since theater owners have to convert and maintain 3-D screens.

No one’s sure how this drama will shake out. In Europe, moviegoers pay around $1 for a pair of re-usable RealD 3-D glasses. In Asia, some patrons put down a refundable deposit. There’s even some speculation that third-party sponsors could step in with ad-supported glasses. Regardless, RealD isn’t worried. ”We will support whatever decision is made between the domestic exhibitors and studios,” explains spokesperson Rick Heineman. In other words, 3-D will still be at a theater near you — but at a price.