Last Thursday night, I had a chance to catch Up at the BCC Myer Centre cinemas.  They have recently acquired a 3D projector and this was the first time I’d seen a 3D movie there.

Let me state the obvious and say that if you haven’t seen a 3D movie in recent years, then you definitely need to!  Gone are the old blue/red cardboard glasses that left you with a sore nose after 5 minutes.  These days, you wear special sunglasses and if you’re like me, you won’t even notice that you’re wearing them.  I’m not quite sure how it works though for people who also need regular glasses.  Can you wear one on top of the other?  I don’t know.

The problem that I see is with the cost.  The normal adult ticket price at the BCC Myer Centre cinemas is $16 for adults and $12 for children.  Thankfully, I have a pass that gets me in for $8.50 per movie.  Unfortunately, you have to pay an extra $3 for a 3D movie.  So that’s $19 for adults and $15 for children.  There are no other discounts however.

If you’re a family of four going to see a film such as Up (and many family movies are in 3D these days), it’ll set you back $58 for tickets.  That’s before the price of overpriced snacks.  A normal movie at BCC would cost you $46 for the same group of people.  In fact, you could go to the Southbank cinemas as a family and see a regular movie for just $26.  That’s a huge saving.

The questions that I have are (1) why is 3D so expensive, and (2) is the price a deterrent for moviegoers?

There are currently only 5 cinemas in Brisbane which offer the 3D experience.  They are the four major BCC cinemas (Myer Centre, Indooroopilly, Garden City, Chermside) and the Cineplex cinema at Victoria Point.  As noted above, the BCC cinemas charge $3 more per 3D movie and the Cineplex cinema charges $4.50 more per 3D movie.

When you see a 3D movie, you get given a pair of glasses.  I’ve got numerous pairs sitting on my bookshelf at home.  Let me ask – why can’t I bring my own pair and save myself this cost?  Why should I have to pay (as part of the ticket price) and receive a new pair of glasses each time?  Aside from the financial cost, there’s the obvious waste of resources.  I’d hate to think about how many pairs end up in the bin afterwards.

Ah, but alas.  From what I understand, it isn’t the cost of the glasses that is driving up prices.  The glasses are pretty cheap actually – just like those toys you get at McDonalds with your Happy Meal.  The real cost are the 3D projectors themselves.  That’s why a lot of other cinemas in Brisbane haven’t jumped on the 3D bandwagon yet.  It’s a large capital outlay in difficult economic times.  It is certainly slowing the roll-out of 3D movies.  Why would you want to make one when it can only be shown in a limited number of cinemas?

3D projectors are very expensive.  I don’t have any exact numbers but we’re talking about a dollar sign followed by 6 figures.  So in that regard, I’m sympathetic towards cinema owners and can understand the costs.  If their costs go up, it’s natural to pass them onto consumers.  Otherwise, they’d go out of business.  If this were a giant scam to extort money out of the movie-going public then trust me – a lot more cinemas would have 3D projectors by now.  Think of it that way.

This then leads to my second question though about whether the price is a deterrent?  It’s hard to say for sure.  I’m always puzzled why people go to a BCC cinema and pay twice the price than what they might otherwise do at the Southbank or Balmoral cinemas, for example?  Yet they do.  Perhaps it’s not worth the effort of driving an extra, say, 15 minutes – there’s both a time cost and a petrol cost.  I’m guilty of that and it’s why I see so many movies myself at the Myer Centre and Regent Cinemas – because I live in the city and can’t be bothered going elsewhere.

Using this flawed rationale, maybe the additional cost will be swallowed by the public and 3D cinemas will thrive.  Maybe every cinema in Brisbane will have a 3D projector within 5 years and every second movie will be released in the new format.  Maybe.  We live in interesting times and I sense that the barrier may not be the ultimate cost to the public but the up-front cost to the cinemas themselves.