The fight between the nation's largest theater chains and Walt Disney Studios over the upcoming release of "Iron Man 3" escalated on Thursday, when AMC Chief Executive Gerry Lopez took the studio to task for taking what he described as an unusually hard line in negotiations.
The dispute prompted AMC, the nation's second-largest theater chain, to announce Wednesday that it would stop selling advance tickets for the film. In another development, Regal, the nation's largest theater chain, also on Wednesday night decided to stop selling tickets for "Iron Man 3" because of objections over Disney's terms, a source close to the circuit said.
"We've been surprised at the ask," Lopez told The Times, referring to Disney's revenue demands. "The depth and the breadth of the ask puts us in a very, very uncomfortable situation ... clearly they are under some kind of financial pressure."
Lopez, speaking in a conference room at the Caesars Palace hotel on the third day of the CinemaCon convention, added that he had been in negotiations with Disney executives to resolve the dispute during the convention and was hopeful it would be resolved.
"Iron Man 3" opens on May 3 and is expected to be one of the biggest movies of the year. Theater chains are counting on the film to help lift a box office that has sagged in the first quarter of this year.
Disney has declined to comment on the dispute.
It's not the first time Disney and AMC have squared off. In February 2010 AMC, the Kansas City, Mo. based chain threatened to not screen the 3-D movie "Alice in Wonderland" to protest Disney's plans to accelerate the DVD release of the film. The dispute was eventually resolved.