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Should AMC Embrace Every Idea Its Investors Suggest?

By Rich Duprey – Oct 11, 2021 at 10:08AM

Key Points

  • AMC Entertainment is being very responsive to the retail investors who are supporting its stock.
  • The theater operator has adopted some curious ideas that were first proposed by shareholders.
  • If it helps the business, then it doesn't really hurt to try.

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The movie theater chain looks like it's throwing a lot of ideas at the wall to see what sticks.

There's something almost unseemly about the way AMC Entertainment (AMC -0.63%) CEO Adam Aron embraces his company's meme stock status. There's practically no idea the WallStreetBets crowd throws out for him to try that's too outlandish for Aron's tastes.

Partner with fellow meme stock alum GameStop? Sure!

Allow investors to buy movie tickets with Bitcoin? Of course! 

How about Dogecoin? May as well!

Give investors free popcorn at the theater? Done!

If there's a suggestion bubbling up in an internet chat room somewhere, you can be sure Aron is giving it due consideration -- as long as it pleases investors enough to buy his stock and it helps sell tickets to his theaters.

Laughing person sitting in movie theater with popcorn container.

Image source: Getty Images.

Although the foregoing examples of paying lots of attention to shareholder ideas are a bit tongue-in-cheek, is it really all that bad? People chuckle at where Aron seems to be taking the theater operator. However, he is only giving small retail investors their due instead of catering only to the big-monied interests that have been betting on AMC's failure for a long time. 

While his critics might say he's pandering to his base, what Aron is doing also helps his company. He wants -- needs -- to get more people into theater seats, and if enticing them with free concession stand goodies does the trick, then it's all good.

A gorilla in the mist

Alphonse D'Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, earned the nickname "Senator Pothole" from his critics because of his constituent-serving practices. 

The upper house of Congress deems itself the world's greatest deliberative body and is too august to engage in the kind of retail politics that are best left to the lower House of Representatives. Still, there was seemingly no issue too small for Senator D'Amato that he would not assert himself into for his constituents.

Maybe we should refer to Aron as CEO Pothole, though the Reddit crowd has their own term for him: Silverback.

That's because these investors refer to themselves as apes, or just regular, hard-working small investors who have united behind the common cause of AMC against what they see as Wall Street insiders trying to take the company down. 

As a reader recently explained, Aron is known as a silverback ape because "he shows some compassion to his shareholders versus appeasing just the large holders."

You can't fault Aron for that or for the loyalty he's developing among a large cadre of small investors. While some might call it pandering, it's more like constituent servicing, and it's not much different from what other CEOs do with issues they deem more lofty and worthy of their time.

Taking a stand for investors

CEOs from Coca-Cola, Nike, Walmart, and elsewhere have injected themselves into environmental, social, and political issues because of the halo effect they believe it creates around their company. 

Even though the issues may be divisive and alienate a large part of their customer base, CEOs regard speaking out as a key component of their company's brand. This practice might even give them a competitive advantage against rivals who believe their job is to represent all of their shareholders' interests, not just the small but vocal minority that is pushing them to take a stand.

Aron's efforts may seem more pedestrian, but they're just as vital to the company's overall health. Moreover, they arguably benefit a larger segment of AMC's base. 

Building back better

AMC Entertainment was already a business in peril before the pandemic hit. A secular slide in theater attendance is only exacerbated by the advent of streaming video services. 

Getting people to return to AMC's theaters is what is driving Aron's actions. He needs for the company to return to profitability quickly to be able to address the burgeoning debt load it carries on its balance sheet. It has been growing for years, but its debt hit $5.7 billion at the end of 2020 and Aron has been able to reduce that to below $5.5 billion over the first six months of the current year.

Aron's already made a number of shrewd moves to mend his ailing business, and while I might chuckle from time to time at his proposals for the movie theaters, they're not detrimental to AMC itself.

Hey, Mr. Aron! I've had a pothole in front of my house for years. Is there a way you can get it fixed?

Rich Duprey owns shares of Coca-Cola. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Bitcoin and Nike. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Stocks Mentioned

AMC Entertainment Stock Quote
AMC Entertainment
AMC
$6.71 (-0.63%) $0.04
Walmart Stock Quote
Walmart
WMT
$150.98 (0.73%) $1.09
Coca-Cola Stock Quote
Coca-Cola
KO
$63.41 (-0.05%) $0.03
GameStop Stock Quote
GameStop
GME
$23.09 (-1.28%) $0.30
Nike Stock Quote
Nike
NKE
$108.47 (0.50%) $0.54
Bitcoin Stock Quote
Bitcoin
BTC
$16,828.02 (-0.94%) $-159.98
Dogecoin Stock Quote
Dogecoin
DOGE
$0.10 (-3.87%) $0.00

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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