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Blockbuster movies have returned to the movie theaters and not a moment too soon for AMC Entertainment Holdings (NYSE:AMC). The international theater chain was one of the hardest-hit companies during the pandemic. Nearly all of its revenue comes from bringing folks together in one room to watch films on a large screen. 

Its business was devastated when it had to shut its doors to the viewing public as the world tried to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Major studios either delayed the release of big-ticket films or sent them straight to streaming services, a move that was slowing AMC’s sales recovery even as it reopened theaters. 

Image source: Getty Images.

Blockbusters are back 

The July 9 weekend could mark a turning point in the bounce back for movie theater chain AMC. Buoyed by the release of the long-delayed blockbuster film Black Widow from Walt Disney, AMC reported a post-reopening record with 3.2 million moviegoers over the weekend.

According to estimates, Black Widow generated $158 million in box office sales worldwide. Additionally, another blockbuster from Comcast‘s Universal Pictures, F9: The Fast Saga, has earned $542 million. That’s just the beginning. More films are on the way as studios have stopped delaying releases.

It looks as though AMC has made it through the worst of the pandemic. There were moments during the most acute phases of lockdowns when the company’s survival was in jeopardy. Management can be commended for urgently raising cash and cutting costs, and ensuring it had the resources to make it through. 

Fundamentals matter

Some of the capital the company raised during the pandemic was through borrowing. Its balance sheet has swelled to contain $5.4 billion in debt, and in the most recent quarter, the company paid interest expenses of $151.5 million. Annualized, its interest expense will be over $600 million.

What makes that figure troublesome is that the most annual operating income AMC earned over the last decade was $310 million. So while it’s great news that big-ticket movies are returning to movie theaters, AMC still has a lot of work to do before it fully bounces back. For instance, even if it matches its pre-pandemic high of $310 million in operating income, AMC will likely still report a loss on the bottom line because of the interest expense.

Missed opportunity 

Management understands the company’s issues and is working on raising equity, presumably to pay down debt. It set forth a proposal to shareholders to authorize more shares for sale but withdrew the proposal in the face of negative feedback. Shareholders had the opportunity to help improve the long-run prospects of AMC but were not interested in the idea.

The fear was that the additional supply of shares in the market could drive down the stock price. And the short-term share price movement appears to be more of a concern for investors in AMC than the long-term fundamentals of the company. 

AMC’s role as the focal point for a group of retail traders on Reddit makes the stock trade at a price that appears to be divorced from fundaments. As a result, AMC’s stock price could continue higher despite its apparent poor financial circumstances. 


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