This past week could've been a defining moment for AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC -4.83%). The country's leading multiplex operator was slated to report fresh financial results. Retail investors were mounting a show of force. A rare theatrical release that's only available at theatres was going to light up the box office. 

Things didn't exactly play out that way. The stock chart will argue that last week wasn't a dud; AMC stock rose 2.4% for the week, more than tripling to the market's mere 0.7% ascent. However, with the stock still trading for less than half of its early June peak, it was a blown opportunity for the exhibitor to show off. Let's go over the week that was -- as well as the week that could've been.

A pair of young moviegoers asleep in an empty theater.

Image source: Getty Images.

Earning the sequel 

AMC's second-quarter report hit a lot of the right notes. Revenue exceeded expectations, even if it's still clocking in 70% below where it was just two years ago. AMC posted its eighth straight quarterly loss, but the deficit was less than analysts were targeting. Liquidity is at an all-time high, even if the chain is burning through cash despite having all of its U.S. theaters now open.  

The 101-year-old chain also had forward-thinking announcements in its earnings call. AMC expects to start accepting cryptocurrency for payment by the end of the year. It's also exploring new content deals, including a potential esports partnership with a fellow meme stock. 

There was more good news and bad news in the report, but sometimes the market has other plans. AMC shares may have moved higher last week, but more than all of those gains happened on Monday in anticipation of the Monday afternoon report. The stock has actually moved lower in the four trading days since its earnings release.

As decent as AMC's report may have come across, it was also a failure of galvanization. AMC has more than 4 million retail investors, and social platforms blew up with a plan to come together. They would bid up a question -- oddly enough about AMC's dividend policy -- to show how the "apes" could vote in unison. The question was voted up by less than 2% of the retailer investors representing just 1% of the shares outstanding. 

The rest of the week wasn't very encouraging. Just when it seemed as if Hollywood was coming back to the multiplex, the highly anticipated Venom sequel had its theatrical release bumped from late September to mid-October. The three-week delay is in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases, and it could be problematic to the industry's turnaround prospects if more upcoming flicks follow suit. 

Things didn't get any better on Friday. Free Guy -- a rare theatrical release that is only playing at theatres -- sold a little more than $10 million in domestic tickets on Friday. Other summertime releases including The Suicide Squad, Black Widow, Space Jam, and Jungle Cruise that were also available to stream at home fared better on their opening Friday than Free Guy. The argument that movies are doing so poorly at the box office relative to pre-pandemic levels because folks can catch them through digital delivery on demand is starting to ring hollow. In short, this turnaround is going to take some time. AMC may have started out last week on a strong note, but it closed it out with the return of old questions.