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Don't Bury AMC Entertainment Stock -- It's Not Dead Yet

By Rick Munarriz - Jan 25, 2021 at 10:10AM

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The country's largest multiplex operator raises money to get through this very challenging winter.

Liquidity is everything for AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC -1.08%), and right now the country's largest multiplex operator has bought itself some more time. AMC stock spiked higher at Monday's open after the exhibitor announced that it has raised $917 million through new debt and equity in the past six weeks. 

"This means that any talk of an imminent bankruptcy for AMC is completely off the table," CEO Adam Aron told investors in this week's announcement. 

Obviously this is a big deal. Avoiding bankruptcy that would more than likely wipe out all common shareholders is far better than the massive dilution that has taken place since the springtime of last year when AMC has been panhandling to keep its projectors warm. However, there are still a lot of assumptions that need to go right for AMC to hold on to this Monday's early gains. Let's grab a seat, pass the popcorn, and see what the scrappy theater chain needs just as much as money.

Two young customers in an otherwise empty movie theater are asleep in their chairs.

Image source: Getty Images.

Hollywood ending

AMC unearthed $1 billion in fresh financing between April and November of last year, and now it has raised nearly that much since mid-December. With largely empty screens playing movies folks either don't care to see or can stream safely at home it's challenging to woo back patrons in the new normal. 

We haven't made it to a happy ending just yet. AMC's claim that the latest round of money raised will take it "deep" into this year is based on a lot of shallow assumptions. A biggie is that its forecast for future attendance levels holds up, and that's not set in Sharon Stone right now. The media stocks that control Hollywood studios are still pushing out early 2021 theatrical releases or concurrently offering them online for folks who prefer to stay at home. AMC also needs to talk with theater landlords about rent relief when it comes to the amounts and timing of lease payments that it will need to complete. 

And AMC needs the vaccination process to pick up the pace. Just 18.5 million people in the U.S. -- or roughly 9% of the adult population -- have received at least the first dose of a COVID-19-tackling vaccination. The vast majority of them still need the second shot to complete the process at least three to four weeks after the first dose.

President Joe Biden is hoping to get 100 million vaccine doses administered in his first 100 days in office. This would translate into another roughly 50 million completed vaccinations by the end of April. 

We're just scratching the surface on the vaccination front, but this is still important for the movie theater industry. Senior citizens are a priority right now, and they are folks that most likely haven't cut the cord from their cable or satellite television providers. This is the age group that will -- for the most part -- be the last to make the jump to figure out the tangle of digital streaming services. They miss going to the movies, and it's fair to say that the pent-up demand is huge to head back to the multiplex. It's going to be a bonus that the theaters won't be filled with noisy teens and young adults. 

There's a lot that AMC is doing to try to survive these days, unlike its largest rival Regal Cinema, which just flat-out closed down its theaters three months ago to preserve capital. It has used the lull to to enhance its operations including the wider rollout of mobile ordering for concessions and advance seat reservations. It's also been offering private rentals for an entire screen for as little as $99 to get groups as large as 20 to feel comfortable with the experience. 

Shareholders will be shocked once the tab comes in for what is now nearly $2 billion raised since April, a lot of it at low stock prices or high interest rates. However, like any good theatrical film franchise, sticking around is all that matters right now. Staying alive is the best way to make sure that you're part of the eventual sequel.

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