It’s one of those pivotal moments that could change the way Hollywood conducts business. As with other instances of change, some people are in favor while others see nothing but gloom and doom in the years ahead. In fact, the fear of what may happen is so great that John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners, recently said, “It’s the biggest threat to the viability of the cinema industry today.”

No, we’re not talking about file sharing, copyright piracy or the ever-so-remote chance that someone will greenlight a sequel to “Showgirls.” Instead, it’s a little indie picture that many major theater chains have chosen not to show for fear of what it might do to their industry.

The flick is called “Bubble.” The low-budget murder mystery set in a doll factory might not interest everyone, but it’s not the content of the film that has Hollywood in a tizzy. Instead, it’s the film’s distribution. The movie will be released on DVD and aired on cable only days after it debuts in some movie theaters January 27th.

Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban are calling it a “day and date” release strategy. The two dot-com billionaires actually made some real money during that particular bubble when they sold their Web site –– to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion in 1999.

“Bubble,” is the first of six films to be produced by a partnership of Steven Soderbergh, and Cuban and Wagner’s 2929 Entertainment. Like “Bubble,” the other films will also enjoy simultaneous releases, with big-screen showings taking place in Landmark Theaters, 2929’s art-house chain.

But that’s not how they run things in Tinsel Town, where the standard game plan is theatre, DVD, pay-per-view, cable and finally commercial TV. As expected, some Hollywood players are having problems wrapping their brains around the concept of giving audiences a choice of where and how they might view a new release.

However, other Hollywood movers are considering their own versions of day-and-date release.

For example, News Corp. President and COO Peter Chernin recently said his company, Twentieth Century Fox, would soon start distributing movies in hi-def formats only 60 days after theatrical release. What’s more, Tom Staggs, CFO of The Walt Disney Company, said they might “experiment” with “what works for consumers,” but didn’t actually say they would tinker with moviedom’s time-honored release schedule.

As you can probably guess, theater owners are not thrilled with what Wagner and Cuban are doing, and Matthew Harrigan, an analyst with Janco Partners Inc., predicts that a same-day release in both movie houses and on DVD would “completely collapse the domestic theatrical industry,” resulting in “a spate of bankruptcies.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time Hollywood has looked to the future in dread. It was only about 25 years ago when MPAA head Jack Valenti predicted the VCR would destroy the film industry. Nowadays most movies draw more profit from DVD and cable than they do at the box office.

While movie theaters tremble and Hollywood insiders predict the end of civilization as we know it, perhaps the best argument for a day-and-date release business model is coming from Cuban. Long known for being loud, outspoken and following his own drumbeat, the billionaire owner of NBA’s Dallas Mavericks keeps his own blog, where he recently defended his movie distribution strategy and at the same time criticized the current state of the movie theater biz.

“First of all, I don’t think they [theater owners] know what business they are in any longer,” Cuban wrote. “It appears they believe they are in the business of showing the movies Hollywood gives them and praying that Hollywood makes good movies and spends enough money to drive people through the doors so they make some money on the box office and concessions. They aren’t.

“But that’s not the biggest of their problems. Their biggest problem is that they don’t care who their customer is, as long as a lot of people come. Which in turn makes it almost impossible to determine what business they are in.”

Cuban goes on to say that theaters making the entire movie-going experience a pleasure to experience should not have any problems with day-and-date releases. Furthermore, he believes movie companies will sell a lot of DVDs if the discs are available in lobbies as movie fans exit theaters and he likens the entire scenario to how he runs the Mavericks.

“Every single Mavs game is on TV. It wasn’t that long ago that some people in the sports business thought that having games on TV would reduce attendance. After all, why go to the game when you can watch it for free on TV? Then someone decided to do some research and as it turns out, the more games you broadcast on TV, the more people who go to your games.”

Cuban said that it didn’t take him long after buying the Mavericks to realize he wasn’t “selling basketball.” Instead, he was “selling a fun night out and creating a favorable brand identification.” A concept, according to Cuban, that’s completely foreign to most movie theater operators.

And there are plenty of movie fans who would probably agree with him. Especially after they’ve shelled out more than $20 for a pair of tickets only to end up sitting next to people gabbing on cell phones, talking out loud or changing diapers during a film. If theater owners think day-and-date releases will kill their industry, they might want to take a long hard look at what their customers have to put up with when they opt to see a film on the big screen.