Twentieth Century Fox domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson fired back Thursday morning at the head of the National Assn. of Theater Owners John Fithian, who made waves earlier this week when he said he purposefully avoided seeing Fox Searchlight’s “12 Years a Slave” in a theater.

“We are excited to offer everything from intense epic adventures to equally thrilling comedies to intense dramas — all of which are films that are meant to be seen in the best possible venue, your cinemas,” Aronson said at the beginning of Fox’s CinemaCon slate presentation.

“That includes movies that win the Oscar for best picture like ’12 Years a Slave,'” he added, drawing cheers and applause from the audience.

On Tuesday, Fithian said during his industry keynote address that “12 Years” was the only film nominated for the Oscar best picture that he did not see in the theaters, citing the film’s intensity as the primary reason.

“It’s not that I didn’t consider the movie worthy of watching. Quite the contrary,” Fithian explained. “’12 Years a Slave’ constitutes one of the most important movies of our generation. It’s simply that, for me, the movie was too unequivocally intense to watch in a cinema, so I waited and watched it at home.”

The remark created serious tension between Fithian and Fox execs, as well as raising more than a few eyebrows among other theater owners and studio execs attending the confab.

“12 Years a Slave” has grossed north of $172 million worldwide, of which $56 million comes from the U.S. and Canada. Pic is still playing at more than 500 theaters domestically.