Regal Cinemas, the largest theater chain in the U.S., has told Fox precisely where they can stuff their 3D should exhibitors be forced to pay for the glasses. It's a line in the sand on behalf of all exhibitors, and the beginning of what promises to be an interesting dance between studios and theaters.

As reported on Tuesday, reps for 20th Century Fox have been quietly informing exhibitors that, having already hit them up for co-financing for 3D theater upgrades, the studio wouldn't be providing the 3D glasses necessary for audiences to enjoy upcoming fare like Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, slated for release on July 1. As word spread though the annual ShoWest film-industry convention in Las Vegas this week, theater-owners responded with a combination of anger and disbelief.

The major theater chains cut a deal some time ago with the studios, agreeing to install the digital equipment and special screens to support the slew of 3D product that's currently in the pipe. Receiving an eleventh-hour announcement that the studio won't provide the glasses is seen by many as something of a betrayal, and an annoying negotiation that should have already been taken care of.

One exhibitor told Entertainment Weekly, "I'm already paying fees to RealD for the systems. I'm paying to put in the silver screens and I'm paying to train employees to run the product. To come in at this point and say they aren't going to pay for the glasses, yet they want all the upside of the revenue, is ridiculous."

Sources close to the company told EW that, in response, Regal has told Fox that they'll only show Ice Age 3 on their 2D screens. It's rumored that Cinemark and AMC will join Regal, as well. Or they might choose to simply profit from the kerfuffle by capitalizing on Regal's opt-out. There are undoubtedly men in suits sitting around large tables, negotiating all of this stuff as we speak.

"It's a chess game about who's going to reap the most profits from 3-D," a studio distribution executive told the LA Times Patrick Goldstein.

Mixing his metaphors hilariously, the exec continued: "Regal has let Fox know it's willing to raise the ante. Now Fox may threaten to give a big potential summer hit film to Regal's rivals. Someone who has a real vested interest in the long-term financial success of 3D will have to come in and negotiate a solution, where Fox can save some face and Regal can play the movie."
CATEGORIES Movies, Cinematical