THE owner of Odeon cinemas has said it will refuse to screen any films from Universal Pictures in a row over the future of theatrical releases.

The dispute started when the boss of NBCUniversal suggested future blockbusters may be released simultaneously to streaming services and big screens.

Jeff Shell highlighted the success of the film Trolls World Tour, which made around 100million US dollars (£80m) through video on demand after its theatrical release was cancelled because of Covid-19.

Mr Shell told the Wall Street Journal that Universal – which owns the Fast & Furious and Jurassic World films – might release films in both formats in future.

Adam Aron, the boss of Odeon’s owner AMC, responded by saying AMC would not license any Universal film in its 1,000 cinemas around the world.

Odeon has a 13-screen multiplex at Southampton’s Leisure World.

In a strongly worded letter to Universal Studios chairwoman Donna Langley he said: "Accordingly, we want to be absolutely clear, so that there is no ambiguity of any kind. 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.

"It assumes that we will meekly accept a reshaped view of how studios and exhibitors should interact, with zero concern on Universal's part as to how its actions affect us.

"It also presumes that Universal in fact can have its cake and eat it too, that Universal film product can be released to the home and theatres at the same time, without modification to the current economic arrangements between us."

Mr Aron said the move was "not some hollow or ill-considered threat" and would be enforced when AMC's venues open.

It comes at a time of increasing anxiety for theatre owners, whose business model is already under threat from the rise of streaming.

Universal, one of the major Hollywood studios, issued a response, saying it "absolutely believes in the theatrical experience and made no statement to the contrary".

But it also echoed Mr Shell's earlier comments and reiterated its plans to release future films on multiple platforms.