What happened 

Shares of AMC Entertainment (AMC -4.04%) rallied on Tuesday after the movie theater chain announced surprisingly strong Labor Day weekend box office results. 

As of 3:30 p.m. EDT, AMC's stock price was up more than 6%.

So what

Over 2 million people headed to AMC's U.S. theaters between Sept. 2 and Sept. 5, with an additional 800,000 moviegoers visiting its international locations. These results marked a record for Labor Day weekend sales. It also represented the first time AMC saw higher attendance -- compared with the same period in 2019 -- since the company closed its theaters during the early stages of the pandemic.

"This Labor Day weekend in the United States has been an important milestone for AMC as we steadily work to generate a recovery for our business," AMC CEO Adam Aron said in a press release.

People watching a movie in a theater.

Movie fans returned to theaters in droves during the holiday weekend. Image source: Getty Images.

The attendance gains were fueled by a blockbuster box office performance from Disney's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Marvel Studios' latest film generated $90 million in sales during its opening weekend.

Now what

Rebounding attendance is welcome news for AMC's investors. Surging COVID-19 case counts driven by the delta variant had weighed on the theater industry and forced studios to delay major releases, such as Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: Impossible 7. However, AMC's recent results suggest traffic trends are improving, which could drive more studios to prioritize in-theater releases for their best films, rather than same-day launches on streaming services.

"This encouraging surge in attendance at AMC signals that as Hollywood releases movies, Americans eagerly want to return to movie theatres again," Aron said.