Stock markets moved modestly higher on Wednesday, continuing the trend of somewhat lackluster market movements recently. Investors like what they're seeing in terms of economic reopening, but they remain concerned about inflationary pressures and other potential problems that could rear up at any time. As of 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.49%) was up 72 points to 34,648. The S&P 500 (^GSPC 0.77%) picked up 9 points to 4,211, and the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC 0.95%) rose 16 points to 13,753.

Once again, many investors focused their attention on popular stocks that have run into hard times since their respective heydays. AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC -2.00%) and BlackBerry (BB -1.71%) are in very different parts of the market, but both have core followings of retail investors who have strong feelings about their ability to mount a long-term rebound.

Wall Street makes easy money off AMC

Shares of AMC gained more than 25% on Wednesday morning. The movie theater chain announced a popular rewards program to support its shareholders, but it also helped allow an institutional investor to reap a quick payday trading its stock.

Today AMC launched its AMC Investor Connect platform, which will give moviegoers some special offers along with company updates and information. According to the company, more than 3.2 million individual investors owned shares of AMC as of mid-March, and any of them who sign up for the platform will get a free large popcorn when attending an AMC movie. CEO Adam Aron promised to give shareholders direct communications along with exclusive promotions.

Three young people eating popcorn sitting in movie theater seats.

Image source: Getty Images.

Yet interestingly, it was an institutional investor that got the biggest reward. Mudrick Capital bought 8.5 million shares of AMC for $230 million at a price of just over $27 per share, but it reportedly turned right around and sold the position almost immediately after purchasing it. It's unclear exactly how large a profit Mudrick reaped, although based on the timing of reports, it seems likely that the investment company missed out on what would have been an even bigger gain if it had held on just a single day.

BlackBerry looks to connect again

Elsewhere, shares of BlackBerry climbed more than 10% Wednesday morning. The former smartphone pioneer and current digital intellectual property specialist in enterprise security has captured the attention of retail investors, and it's been linked in many of their minds to AMC and other popular stocks.

BlackBerry is an interesting case in that many people recognize its brand but don't necessarily understand its new business. The company hopes that it can develop expertise in key growth areas like automotive operating systems and the Internet of Things, latching on to opportunities that can boost its profile. Partnerships with some key players in the automotive industry aim to take advantage of the movement toward autonomous vehicles and their greater need for comprehensive cybersecurity protection.

Yet BlackBerry is still posting massive losses, and its revenue hasn't started to bounce back after its strategic shift. Sales remain mired below the $1 billion mark, valuing the stock at roughly 8 to 9 times its trailing revenue over the past 12 months.

In the short run, stock prices reflect investor interest, and the voracious appetite among retail investors could sustain big advances for quite a while. Eventually, though, BlackBerry and AMC will have to prove their businesses can live up to the promises the stock price has made. Many will be watching closely to see whether that ends up happening.