It was a rough weekend at the corner multiplex. Movie theaters across the country had just $61.6 million in gross ticket sales over the weekend, the weakest box office action in more than two months. Horror flick Candyman was the top draw, but in terms of audience counts, the showing proved to be more trick than treat.

This is literally the worst weekend performance of the summer season, and the trend isnt kind. Weve seen box office receipts post sequential declines in five of the past seven weeks since peaking with Black Widows premiere. That particular week in early July was the only weekend that the industry broke above $100 million in ticket sales, a feat that happened every single weekend for movie studios during the 2018 and 2019 peak summer seasons.

An empty theater is obviously a bad look for the industry, flying in the face of the narrative of AMC Entertainment Holdings (NYSE: AMC) as one of this years hottest stocks. AMC is nearly a 20-bagger in 2021, but the fumbled momentum for the exhibitors this summer is defying the otherwise buoyant stock chart. Lets take a closer look at what went wrong, and why its too soon to dismiss AMCs chances to get back on track.


Image source: Getty Images.

The Candyman cant

Dont point the finger at Comcasts (NASDAQ: CMCSA) Candyman reboot as the cause for the slump. Its checking in with a solid 85% approval rating for film critics tracked by Rotten Tomatoes. You also cant blame the widespread availability of online streaming options. Candyman (as well as the weekends second-highest grossing film, Free Guy) are exclusive theatrical releases.

An easier culprit to blame right now could be the delta variant of COVID-19. The summertime surge of the deadly virus is likely keeping people away from indoor social settings, but even thats not a viable lone scapegoat. Box office receipts are 43% below the same period -- the weekend before the Labor Day holiday weekend -- in 2019. Its a safe bet that your local bars, indoor malls, and even restaurants arent seeing a 43% plunge in sales over the past two years.

This summer was supposed to be the great rebirth of going out to the movies. Studios that had to delay 2020 and even early 2021 releases are now flooding the pipeline. Comcasts Universal Studios, for example, was originally set to put out Candyman 13 months ago. Here we are, a couple of delays later, and audiences failed to materialize despite saying the film title five times in front of a mirror. Less than 1% of the country saw Candyman over the weekend, and less than 2% of the country saw any movie at the multiplex.

The convenience of streaming video entertainment is something that will challenge AMC and its smaller peers. It also obviously doesnt help that folks can freely enjoy movies at home without having to mask up the way that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is suggesting for indoor gatherings at the movie house.

The bullish thesis that summer audiences would build for the multiplex operators has gone the other way. This doesnt mean that the industry is doomed. It doesnt mean that folks have flocked back home after the initial retro novelty of going back to the movies.

More to an AMC-specific point, it doesnt mean that the leading exhibitor took a 43% hit to its top line this weekend relative to where it was two years ago, when its stock was trading much lower. The chain has been gaining market share this year against other movie theater stocks, and its also getting a lot better at monetizing the experience. Food and beverage purchases per customer were a whopping 42% higher at AMC in the second quarter than they were during the same financial period in 2019.

Were not at the point where the concessions stand is making enough to offset the drop in attendance, but this is the high-margin part of the multiplex model. Its problematic to see the telltale summer season fizzle out this way, but theres still time to go before the end credits start to roll.

10 stocks we like better than AMC Entertainment Holdings
When our award-winning analyst team has a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*

They just revealed what they believe are the ten best stocks for investors to buy right now... and AMC Entertainment Holdings wasnt one of them! Thats right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

See the 10 stocks

*Stock Advisor returns as of August 9, 2021

Rick Munarriz has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Comcast. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The Motley Fool

Founded in 1993 in Alexandria, VA., by brothers David and Tom Gardner, The Motley Fool is a multimedia financial-services company dedicated to building the worlds greatest investment community. Reaching millions of people each month through its website, books, newspaper column, radio show, television appearances, and subscription newsletter services, The Motley Fool champions shareholder values and advocates tirelessly for the individual investor. The companys name was taken from Shakespeare, whose wise fools both instructed and amused, and could speak the truth to the king -- without getting their heads lopped off.

Learn More

Most Popular

Contact us

Find us at the office

Humble- Micallef street no. 52, 81559 Jakarta, Indonesia

Give us a ring

Arieal Keswick
+27 450 860 545
Mon - Fri, 9:00-18:00

Reach out