If you thought that the two previous weekends were slow at your local multiplex, this one takes the rake. Domestic movie theaters took in a mere $52.1 million in ticket sales over the weekend. It's the weakest box office showing since late January. As strong as the initial bounce in ticket sales earlier this summer was, exhibitors just had their worst performance in seven months. This is naturally unwelcome news for AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC 0.44%) and its smaller peers.

Seasonality matters, of course. Studios slot their most promising releases earlier in the summer when schools let out and folks are clamoring for stuff to do. However, the slowdown is dramatic even by seasonal standards. Last year -- when many leading media companies were holding back on big-ticket theatrical releases and trying to feed their affiliated premium streaming services -- movie theaters still rang up $61.6 million in domestic admissions.

Next weekend will be even worse. It's going to be a lot worse.

Two couples sitting in a movie theater.

Image source: Getty Images.

It's a ring-toss game

If you think the 15% year-over-year decline this past weekend is bad, buckle up. The upcoming Labor Day comparisons will be brutal. The debut of Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings took place during the holiday weekend last year. It would go on to shatter the industry record for premieres over the Labor Day weekend. The movie was the year's second-highest-grossing film, outdone only by Spider-Man: No Way Home, which would spring its sticky web on moviegoers three months later.

U.S. multiplex operators got a boost from $160.4 million in ticket sales over the Labor Day weekend last year. It will be a lot lower than that this year.

The slate is pretty barren right now. The top draw this past weekend was The Invitation. The romantic vampire thriller failed to take a bite out of audiences. If this is the first time that you've heard about the movie, you're not alone. Just 1.5% of the country wound up taking in any movie at a theater over the weekend.

The upcoming weekend isn't very promising even with the Monday holiday. The only major new release will be Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul starring Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown. It doesn't help at all that the movie will also premiere on Comcast's Peacock Premium platform. Making matters worse, Peacock Premium is reportedly slashing the price of its annual ad-supported plan from $49.99 to $19.99 on Thursday. You can get a year of Peacock Premium for the price of a pair of movie tickets to see Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.

We're going to need a bigger boat

There will be something old, borrowed, and blue to go along with something new this weekend. Jaws is being rereleased in a limited number of screens, and the 1975 shark classic is being updated to today's premium multiplex formats. Spider-Man: No Way Home is also swinging back into theaters. As big as these films were before, rereleases rarely make more than a ripple. Did you even know that E.T. was rereleased last month?  

This isn't the end of the multiplex comeback. AMC and its fellow exhibitors will have a busier slate of promising releases later this year. The next few weeks could be challenging for movie theater stocks, but the industry isn't going away. Big-ticket blockbusters are coming. It's just a difficult but seasonally typical lull that the industry is experiencing right now.