The owner of Odeon Cinemas has banned all Universal films from its theatres after the studio said it will release new movies at home and on the big screen on the same day.
AMC Entertainment boss Adam Aron said the ban will cover its 1,000 cinemas.
It follows comments from NBCUniversal which said the film Trolls World Tour had performed well despite only being available on streaming services.
The children’s film is reported to have generated sales of nearly $100m.
Trolls World Tour was scheduled for release in cinemas at the beginning of April.
However, with cinemas currently closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was offered as a Premium Video on Demand (PVOD) on streaming platforms such as Apple TV.
Jeff Shell, president and chief executive of NBCUniversal, parent company of the film studio, told the Wall Street Journal said 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 said.
But in a letter to Universal Studios’ chair Donna Langley, Mr 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.”
He added: “Going forward, AMC will not license any Universal movies in any of our 1,000 theatres globally on these terms.”
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.
It has already been announced that another Universal film – The King of Staten Island – will have its premier on video on demand in June.
But there are a number of other major Universal movie releases which had been planned to be shown in cinemas later this year, including the next instalment of The Purge horror movie franchise.
Mr Aron said the ban could be extended to other studios if they chose to go down the same route as Universal.
Though he said: “Universal is the only studio contemplating a wholesale change to the status quo.”