Monday, April 6, 2009 - French War of the 3D Glasses

April 3, 2009
Exhibitors – France
The war of the 3D glasses
The financial potential of 3D films is one of the major arguments for speeding up movie theatres' transition to digital projection. However, tensions are growing between distributors and exhibitors over the division of rental costs for the special viewing glasses provided to cinemagoers.

Paramount's French distribution arm sparked an outcry this week with the release of Monsters vs Aliens, by demanding a €3 increase in admission prices for 3D screenings.

Deeming that the increase in admission prices (50% of which the distributor recovers, excluding VAT) should not exceed €1-2 in order to remain attractive to viewers, the CGR and Kinepolis networks, as well as several independent theatres, refused this ultimatum and decided to release the film in just 2D digital. In total, the film has only been released in 3D in 44 of the 80 specially-equipped cinemas in France.

The crux of the debate is whether exhibitors can recoup the rental costs for the 3D glasses, which is estimated at €1.2 per screening. For the release of Bolt in early February, Disney's distribution arm opted for a more conciliatory strategy, requesting a €1-2 increase in admission prices and reimbursing the exhibitor €0.60 per rented pair of glasses.

The current average admission price in French cinemas is €5.95. In 2008, the number of digitally-equipped theatres rose from 54 to 252 (including 144 for CGR and 33 for Kinepolis). Meanwhile, the number of films released in digital format increased from 30 to 50 (including 35 via the distribution arms of US Majors, ten via distributors connected to TV networks and five by independent distributors).

Fabien Lemercier

Bob Johnston

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