The quickest way to reverse the recent slide in AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC) stock could be as simple as getting people back to movie theaters. Sony's Venom: Let There Be Carnage was the top draw at the local multiplex over the weekend, and it rocked in a material way.
The sequel to 2018's Venom reboot -- technically a property of Walt Disney's Marvel, but put out by Sony's studio -- raked in $90.1 million in domestic ticket sales over the weekend. It's the largest three-day opening of the pandemic era. It's also the second-highest opening ever for an October debut. Only 2019's Joker, which rang up $96.2 million at the box office for its premiere, has fared better in October.
The young month is only going to get better for the industry, and that's great news for AMC and its rivals. AMC could use the boost. At its intraday low last Thursday -- just hours before Venom hit screens -- the stock had surrendered more than half of its early June peak.
And the hits keep on coming
Venom's sequel is a hit. The tentpole releases were few and far between this summer. It's telling that the last multiplex hit -- Disney's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings -- was the top draw in each of the four previous weekends. Shang-Chi is a theatrical success, of course. It's the only movie to sell more than $200 million in tickets domestically this year. However, its weekly reign at the top until now has come largely from a lack of competition.
Studios have been pushing out their biggest films later into the calendar, trying to time their releases to the end of COVID-19 transmission concerns in enclosed movie theaters. We may not be there just yet, but Hollywood has finally run out of patience. Venom: Let There Be Carnage broke the post-pandemic record for a three-day opening weekend, but it will be dethroned as the top draw in North America this weekend. James Bond's No Time to Die will be the big winner when it premieres later this week.
We're going to get a healthier slate through the next three months culminating in the holiday season, a far cry from the summer where the highly anticipated debutantes were few and far between. It's just what AMC needs.
Valuation concerns are legit. Even after shedding a lot of its gains since topping briefly $70 in June, the stock continues to be at the top of this year's biggest winners among large-cap stocks. Its share count has expanded roughly fivefold over the past year. However, bears arguing that the rough landing for box office receipts in September after Shang-Chi initially shattered Labor Day records more than four weeks ago are missing the point. There wasn't any marquee content to push Shang-Chi out of the largest or premium screens at your corner multiplex. The cadence is about to pick up in a way that will be refreshing for exhibitors.
Momentum has been justifiably lumpy this summer, but the headline risks now turn to face the bears. It remains to be seen if consumers coming back to movie theaters is a trend that will stick for sustainable recovery, but it's going to be a very strong fourth quarter for movie theater stocks. The one-two punch of Venom and Bond this weekend is going to fill up movie theaters, giving the surviving players their best showing since 2019.