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Fox, Regal don’t see eye to eye on 3-D

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Kai Ryssdal: I suppose this weekend’s box office receipts testify to the movie business being recession-proof: $34 million worth of tickets were bought to see the new Hannah Montana movie. It is Hannah’s second turn on the big screen. Her concert film last year was a 3-D spectacular. And there are some who think — again — that 3-D’s the future of movie-making. Off-screen, there’s a bigger battle brewing. Over who’s going to pay for those silly glasses you have to wear. Jill Barshay reports.

JILL BARSHAY: “Monsters and Aliens.” “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” More than a dozen 3-D movies have been released since 2005, and the movie studios have paid for all those plastic glasses.

But Fox wants theaters to pick up the tab when it releases “Ice Age” this summer.

George Solomon is the CEO of Southern Theatres. He says the studios are trying to take a big bite out of his revenue.

GEORGE Solomon: They want their cake and to eat it too. If Fox is going to continue their stance on this, then we would just show it 35 mm and pass on 3-D totally.

But this dispute is about more than $1 glasses. Studios have also been paying most of the $75,000 to upgrade movie screens to digital, so that they can show 3-D. Most theaters still need the upgrade. Marla Backer is an entertainment industry analyst at Research Associates.

MARLA Backer: This has been the age-old question between the studios and the movie theaters: who pays? So the glasses is just really a symbol of who is going to bear the bigger cost of actually putting in the equipment.

Theater owners are threatening to boycott “Ice Age” in 3-D. But the movie studios are betting that 3-D’s popularity will force some theater owners to chill out and pay the bill.

In New York, I’m Jill Barshay for Marketplace.

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