AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC -7.68%) did everything it had to do on Monday afternoon to live up to its end of the bargain. It posted better-than-expected quarterly results. It peppered its earnings call with all the right buzzwords, including "cryptocurrency," and a potential partnership with fellow meme-stock royalty GameStop (GME -5.84%). AMC may have even caught a break in the shift to digital home distribution.

However, even great isn't always enough for a company that has seen its stock increase nearly tenfold -- and its market cap explode almost fiftyfold -- over the past year. It's also worth a closer look to find that even some of the great news may be just good at best and possibly mediocre. Let's grab a seat. The feature presentation is about to begin.

Theater goers masked up at the movies.

Image source: Getty Images.

A Hollywood ending

Let's start with the actual financials. The $444.7 million in revenue that it rang up during the three months in ending in June exceeded the $375.3 million that analysts were targeting. It was also major improvement over the $18.9 million it rang up a year earlier, but to be fair that's a nonsense comparison. All of AMC's U.S. theaters were closed in the springtime of last year. It had just a small handful of movie houses operating overseas. With AMC now operating all of its cinemas -- and 95% of its international multiplexes -- the real measuring stick is 2019, and on that front revenue is more than 70% below where it was two years ago.

The bottom-line beat is also not as glorious as it first sounds. AMC's eighth consecutive quarterly deficit was a much smaller deficit than what it posted a year earlier on a per-share basis, but largely because AMC's share count has exploded fivefold over the past year. Analysts were expecting a slightly larger loss on a per-share basis, but that target has held firm since April, when the share count was just 400 million. 

As for the tidbits of good news, do you really think folks will be paying with Bitcoin (BTC -0.48%) -- a taxable event -- for a matinee ticket or a tub of popcorn? As for a GameStop partnership, we're not talking about trading in VHS copies of old movies for a discounted ticket to a new release. We're obviously looking at e-sports simulcast live on the multiplex screen. AMC has tried live sports, but folks didn't turn out to see live NFL games and pay-per-view fights or pre-recorded Broadway shows and concerts. The rub is that GameStop is a retail gaming brand, but e-sports is primarily the handiwork of the software developers and publishers behind the hottest franchises. Even if was a tastemaker in that realm, we're talking about one-time screening events that won't make a dent of what a Hollywood blockbuster filling up seats for weeks would do in merrier times for the exhibitor industry.

One piece of good news is that AT&T's (T 5.22%) Warner Bros. -- instead of feeding new releases immediately to HBO Max subscribers the way it has this year -- has been striking deals with AMC and smaller rivals to give theaters 45 days of exclusivity. Seeing Suicide Squad bomb at the multiplex this past weekend despite generally positive reviews could have been the straw that broke the back of the day-and-date streaming release model. 

The challenges will continue for AMC. It continues to hold up better than its peers, but a growing slice of a rapidly shrinking pie isn't typically a good investment. The Warner Bros. victory is sweet, but we're not going back to the far more multiplex-friendly pre-pandemic release windows. Movie-making media stocks have streaming services to fortify. Movie fans have grown comfortable with their home theaters. AMC came through this week, but no question marks were replaced by exclamation points.