I’m endlessly fascinated by the developing business of 3D moviemaking and exhibition. I wasn’t around to see any of the big, established cinema revolutions in action (sound, color, ‘scope) so this is an incredible thing to observe. Especially since we get to bet, with highly variable odds, on how acceptance of the tech is going to shake out.

While most everyone was stumping for 3D at ShoWest, the exhibitor’s convention, Fox took a stand against studios paying for ‘free to the public’ 3D glasses. Delivering the hardware can cost a million per picture, and Fox doesn’t figure it should have to pony up.

Regal Entertainment, the largest theatre chain (and operators of the primary Altanta Metro 3D screens) ain’t down with that.

EW reports that Regal will only show Fox’s upcoming Ice Age 3 on 2D screens in retaliation to Fox’s new policy. (Which earlier this week didn’t seem to be set in stone, but we’ll soon see.) The article says that other exhibitors are likely to side with Regal, and that deals have been in place for a long time that put the onus for glasses on studios.

At the LA Times, Patrick Goldstein theorizes that Fox could instead make attractive deals with other chains, leaving them holding a bag full of extra 3D revenue and Regal with the regular old take. I don’t know the business of exhibition well enough to know whether theatre solidarity is likely, or if chains might break to make a deal with Fox, assuming that additional profits are available.

EW quotes an anonymous exhibitor (no idea whether the person is with Regal or another chain) on the subject. “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.”

Meanwhile, Michael Bay spoke and ShoWest and dismissed the idea of 3D as the Next Big Thing. “3D? I don’t know…” quotes Peter at /Film. “I might be old school. I think it might be a gimmick.” He added “I don’t know, we’ll see. I’m looking forward to [James] Cameron’s picture.”

His later comments were even more self-aggrandizingly Bay. “The way I shoot is too aggressive for 3D cameras. It’s a time consuming thing. Who knows…It might be a fad.”