As of February 4, My Bloody Valentine 3-D grossed nearly $46 million domestically at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo. Some theaters did show the movie in old-fashioned two dimensions, but at least half the screenings were surely 3-D. So let's say -- $25 million in 3-D ticket sales. That's at least 2.5 million people seeing the movie, right? (According to Engadget HD, it's even more than that.)
That means at least 2.5 million pairs of 3-D glasses were handed out to audiences. These are not your mother's 3-D glasses; they're not like the ones you got for the Super Bowl ads, flimsy cardboard with red-and-blue cellophane. When you watch My Bloody Valentine or Bolt or Coraline in 3-D, you're given relatively sturdy plastic glasses that remind me of cheap sunglasses.
So what happens to those millions of pairs of plastic glasses after each screening of a 3-D movie? Do we throw them away, recycle them, or keep them for another movie? Imagine how much space 3 million pairs of glasses would take up in a landfill, all for one 3-D movie. At a time when our society is paying more attention to environmental sustainability and green initiatives, you'd think we'd have heard some outcry about the waste.
RealD, the company that developed the technology for contemporary 3-D movies, started a recycling program for the glasses last fall to address this problem. When I left Bolt after the movie ended, I noticed a giant, colorful cardboard container at the doors of the theater where you could deposit your glasses. Most people seemed to be dropping their glasses in the container for recycling. At the Coraline press screening, a box wasn't available -- probably because the press screening took place nearly two weeks before the movie opened, and recycling measures simply weren't in place yet for that movie. So I took my glasses home. I also have a pair leftover from Butt-Numb-a-Thon.
I'm thinking about storing my 3-D glasses in some old sunglass cases I have around the house, and reusing those pairs for upcoming 3-D movies. 3-D is a hot trend again, and several screens in Austin are set up for 3-D projection, so I should be able to get some use out of them. Reusing the glasses is better than recycling them -- recycling plastic beats throwing it away, but recycled plastic still isn't used for a whole lot. I'd like to see theaters offer an incentive for audience members who bring their own 3-D glasses, whether it's a cheaper ticket or a discount on popcorn. Another option would be for RealD to find a way to sterilize/disinfect the used glasses so they can be given out to future audience members, although I have no idea if that's cost effective.
What do you do with your 3-D glasses after you see a 3-D movie in theaters? Does your local theater have a recycling bin for glasses, or some incentive for you to reuse them? Am I worrying too much about a few hunks of plastic, or are there good solutions here that I'm missing?