Odeon Cinemas, owned by AMC, has banned all Universal films after the studio said it intends to release future movies on streaming platforms and cinema screens on the same day.
AMC boss Adam Aron said the ban will cover its 1,000 cinemas worldwide.
It follows comments from NBCUniversal which said the film Trolls World Tour had performed well despite only being available on streaming services. The movie sequel was fast-tracked to streaming platforms such as iTunes and Amazon Prime Video on a TVoD basis following the coronavirus outbreak. It is reported to have generated sales of nearly $100 million.
Jeff Shell, president and chief executive of NBCUniversal, parent company of the film studio, told the Wall Street Journal the film had “exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability” of streaming.
“As soon as theatres reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats,” he added.
But in a letter to Universal Studios, Aron accused the studio of trying to “have its cake and eat it too”.
He said: “AMC believes that with this proposed action to go to the home and theatres simultaneously, Universal is breaking the business model and dealings between our two companies. Going forward, AMC will not license any Universal movies in any of our 1,000 theatres globally on these terms.”
Movies in the pipeline for Universal Pictures include Fast & Furious 9, Halloween Kills and Candyman.
Meanwhile, John Fithian, chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners, accused the film company of using the pandemic to alter the existing release structure.
“Universal does not have reason to use unusual circumstances in an unprecedented environment as a springboard to bypass true theatrical releases,” he said.