What happened

Shares of cinema magnate AMC Entertainment (AMC -10.08%) dropped 11% in early trading Thursday after the company posted much weaker than expected earnings (i.e. much greater than expected losses). AMC stock is still down 8.8% as of 1:15 p.m. EDT.

Analysts were already expecting to see AMC post a loss for the quarter -- $0.51 per share. What surprised them was that, in fact, AMC reported a loss of $1.25 per share ($1.21 pro forma ), despite hitting estimated revenue of $1.2 billion on the nose.

Recapping the results, AMC CEO Adam Aron said today's numbers made him feel "quite bullish about the full year prospects for AMC." And yet, sales declined 13% year over year, and AMC's $1.25 per-share loss was much worse than the $0.14 per-share profit it reported one year ago.

Movie watcher with soda and popcorn

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

How to explain this seemingly strange reaction to a money-losing quarter? "We have high expectations for 2019, due to an extraordinary slate of movies coming, the timing of releases within the film slate suggests that it will be a back-end loaded year," said Aron.

Whereas, "The first quarter of 2019 faced a tough year-over-year comparison, as Black Panther last year made the first quarter of 2018 the second highest grossing first quarter of all time" -- almost guaranteeing a big decline in sales and profits if Q1 of 2019 was expected to be slow.

Now what

Of course, the big question investors have today is what the future holds for AMC's Stubs A-List movie subscription service, now that competitors MoviePass and Sinemia appear to be at death's door.

A-List "has already attracted more than 785,000 subscribers, far in excess of initial internal expectations," reports AMC. Between this success, AMC's assertion that the service is producing "incremental profitability" for it, and the company's apparent ability to raise prices (up 10% in five states where the service is running, and up 20% in five more states), chances look good that A-List is here to stay -- whatever happens to MoviePass.