What happened

People love going to the movies, but lately they haven't been loving it enough to boost the movie theater industry. On the back of a worrying analyst report about recent movie theater attendance, prominent cinema chain operator Cinemark Holdings (CNK 1.24%) really took it on the chin this week. According to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence, the company's share price declined by more than 18% during the period. 

So what

That analysis was published early Tuesday by investment bank Goldman Sachs. Its analyst Michael Ng wrote that total box office sales for the third quarter of this year were a steep 32% below pre-pandemic levels. In fact, if the cornavirus-ravaged 2020 quarter is excluded, this past third quarter was the worst one for the industry since 1996.

Ng did not mince words about what this might mean for Cinemark and its peers: "Although the timing of content and production delays likely negatively impacted box office in [the 2022 third quarter], the magnitude of underperformance creates uncertainty on whether the domestic box office should see any outsized recovery in the near future." 

The analyst's outlook wasn't entirely bleak. He added that full-year 2022 could still be a decent period for the movie theater business given some high-potential releases, including new superhero entrant Black Adam, and a pair of sequels, Avatar 2 and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Now what

Yet Ng isn't the only analyst predicting a downbeat ending for the industry, at least in the near future.

During the week, several of his peers got more bearish on movie theater stocks, especially Credit Suisse's Douglas Mitchelson, who double downgraded Cinemark from outperform (buy) all the way down to underperform (sell). In addition to the recent weakness, Mitchelson believes that a not-strong 2023 release slate from the major studios will exacerbate the industry's pain.