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Is It Time to Buy AMC Entertainment and Sell GameStop?

By Rick Munarriz - Mar 25, 2021 at 11:55AM

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The country's leading movie theater chain has lost more than a third of its value through the first three days of the week, but it's not the worst-performing meme stock this week.

It's been a rough week for AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC 2.51%) investors. The stock has plummeted 35% through the first three days of trading, including back-to-back days of 15% drops. 

It seemed as if we were heading into the good news cycle for the country's largest multiplex operator when the week began. Why did Walt Disney (DIS -1.11%) have to crash the party by bumping the theatrical release date for a couple of its highly anticipated films, continuing to make them available online at the same time?

The good news is that AMC is still one of this year's hottest stocks. Wednesday's tumble did find it closing in the single digits for the first time in two weeks, but AMC Entertainment stock has still more than quadrupled in 2021. Success is also all about perspective. As bad a week as AMC investors are having, things have gone ever worse for the other popular meme stock. Shares of GameStop (GME 8.43%) have plummeted 40% through the first three days of the week.

A pair of leather recliners at an AMC multiplex.

Image source: AMC Entertainment.

Let's all go to the lobby

Things were starting to look up for AMC Entertainment. It received the green light to reopen in New York and then California earlier this month. By the time this weekend rolls around AMC will have 99% of its locations open again for popcorn-seeking moviegoers. 

Rival Regal is also opening up this week, and that chain has brokered a multi-year deal with Warner Bros. for 45 days of theatrical release exclusivity that will also benefit AMC. Warner Bros. has been making all of its 2021 releases available on HBO Max at the same time as they hit the local multiplex, but come next year it will wait at least 45 days before offering a theatrical release through streaming services. 

Even Disney's move isn't the end of the world. Pushing Black Widow deeper into the summer should result in more ticket sales for Disney and exhibitors alike. Making a theatrical release available as a premium Disney+ offering at the same time isn't deal breaker, as Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon took a similar approach and it's been the top draw at the box office for the last three weekends. 

There are naturally concerns about how the marketplace will play out in the coming months. How many moviegoers will come back? How much will the tighter exclusivity windows cost multiplex operators in terms of audience sizes? No one is saying that AMC will return to form, but at least the signs are there that things will get better. The same can't be said about GameStop.

Customers and employees posing at a GameStop store.

Image source: GameStop.

Playing to win   

Seeing GameStop plunge after reporting quarterly reports isn't a surprise. The video game retailer has now taken a hit the day after posting financial results in nine of its last 10 quarters. Wednesday's 33.8% drop isn't even the worst showing in that span of time, and this is the third quarter in a row with a double-digit percentage plunge. 

GameStop had the benefit of the PS5 launch triggering big-ticket but low-margin transactions and net sales still declined for the holiday quarter. With console makers and software publishers favoring digital delivery it's hard to see where the video game retailer bounces back from here.

Sure, GameStop has refreshed its executive ranks and made digital delivery and e-commerce obvious growth priorities. The problem is that this isn't the first time that we've seen this happen at GameStop.

AMC and GameStop are both suffering from paradigm shifts in the way folks consume movies and video games. The challenges are real, and the window for reinvention isn't as wide as they would like. However, fundamentally speaking each company is heading in different directions. Folks will start returning to movie theaters in the coming months. The same can't be said about GameStop. Both stocks pack gobs of risk at this point, but the next few months of headlines will probably be positive for AMC. The same can't be said about GameStop.

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Stocks Mentioned

GameStop Corp. Stock Quote
GameStop Corp.
GME
$99.19 (8.43%) $7.71
The Walt Disney Company Stock Quote
The Walt Disney Company
DIS
$103.14 (-1.11%) $-1.16
AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. Stock Quote
AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc.
AMC
$13.08 (2.51%) $0.32

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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