What happened

Shares of AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC -5.36%) are battling to break even Thursday morning at 11:19 a.m. ET as the movie theater operator opened 2% higher, dropped 4.5%, rallied to almost break-even, and then turned south again.

As of now, AMC's stock is down less than 1%.

So what

There's no specific news today to cause the gyrations, but yesterday AMC announced it had repurchased $72.5 million of debt at a 31% discount. That helped the theater owner's stock jump 7% yesterday.

AMC still has significant indebtedness it must deal with over the next few years, and it needs a stampede of people returning to its theaters to help make that occur. 

There is still $5.5 billion worth of debt on AMC's balance sheet even after the buyback. Another way to look at AMC's achievement is that it merely reduced its burden by a little more than 1%, hardly worth cheering over.

Moreover, its debt covenants prevent the theater operator from making moves that would allow it to raise cash, whether through issuing stock or other means, and it must maintain certain liquidity requirements. For a company burning through cash like AMC, that will eventually create a dicey situation.

Now what

In a period of rising interest rates, AMC's debt could also become more expensive. It's all part of the reason it needs to put more people in theater seats. It's had a few good runs with some blockbuster movies, but it needs to ensure it's spending money wisely, not going off on tangents like buying a defunct gold and silver miner.