Odeon, Britain's biggest cinema chain, has performed a last-minute U-turn on its decision to boycott the lavish new 3D version of Alice in Wonderland by announcing it will screen the film nationwide after all.
The cinema operator had clashed with Disney after the studio announced it wanted to issue a DVD version of the film, directed by Tim Burton, just three months after its release on the big screen, rather than waiting 17 weeks.
Odeon condemned the move, saying cinema-goers would stay at home and await the release of the DVD rather than attend their local screen.
The chain, which vowed it would not show the blockbuster at any of its 834 screens beyond last night's premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square, warned that a 12-week "window" could lead to the closure of many small and medium-sized cinemas.
But after late-night talks on Wednesday, Odeon announced it had reached an "enduring agreement" with Disney, allowing it to show the film nationwide from 5 March. It will also be shown at Odeon's screens in Ireland and Italy. Both companies refused to discuss the details of the deal, but The Independent understands Odeon has agreed to a 13-week release – a month less than it had originally sought.
In a statement, Odeon said: "Following detailed negotiations with the Walt Disney Company, an enduring agreement has been reached encompassing all the different aspects of both companies' commercial relationship."
The decision by Odeon was greeted with relief by Alice in Wonderland's performers. Michael Sheen, who plays the White Rabbit, said the row had been a "storm in a mad hatter's tea cup".