Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment, the largest U.S. theater chains, stopped advance sales for Walt Disney Co.’s “Iron Man 3” in a revenue-sharing dispute that threatens the start of the summer movie season.
Regal, the biggest cinema operator, stopped selling tickets Tuesday to Marvel’s superhero sequel, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. AMC, based in Kansas City, Missouri, said Tuesday it wasn’t offering advance sales for the May 3 opening because it hadn’t reached terms with Disney.
A united front by the two chains makes it tougher for Disney, the world’s largest entertainment company, to obtain better terms for “Iron Man,” the summer’s first blockbuster, and future films. Regal and AMC account for about 30 percent of theater screens in the U.S., according to the National Association of Theatre Owners.
“We hope to reach agreement and get tickets on sale as soon as possible so it doesn’t affect opening weekend,” Ryan Noonan, an AMC spokesman, said in an e-mail.
“Iron Man 3,” which stars Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow, is projected to gross $151 million domestically in its first weekend, the estimate of researcher Boxoffice.com. That would be the biggest opening weekend so far in 2013. The first two “Iron Man” movies, made for a combined $340 million, generated $630.8 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales.
Disney, based in Burbank, California, didn’t respond to requests for comment. The company, owner of Pixar and Lucasfilm, which makes the “Star Wars” movies, is using “Iron Man” to gain better terms with theater owners on its future releases, Deadline.com reported Tuesday.
Domestic box office receipts are down 11 percent this year to $2.62 billion, according to Hollywood.com. Marvel had the top-grossing film last year with “The Avengers,” partly based on the Iron Man comic book character.
The U.S. flap follows a decision by Disney to release a separate version of “Iron Man 3” in China. The company said on March 30 that it won’t seek official Chinese co-production status. Co-productions aren’t counted against foreign-movie quotas and provide U.S. studios with a larger share of revenue.
“Iron Man 3” was partly made in China with Beijing-based partner DMG Entertainment. A release date for the Chinese version wasn’t announced.
Disney shares slipped 0.1 percent to $60.68 at the close in New York, down from Tuesday’s all-time closing high. The shares have advanced 22 percent this year, compared with an 8.8 percent gain for the S&P 500 Stock Index.
Regal, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, has 6,777 screens, while AMC, which was acquired by China’s Dalian Wanda Group in September 2012, has 5,336, according to the theater association.
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