There's some good news, and then there's some bad news for AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC -5.36%) and its smaller rivals. The good news is that the $76.3 million that domestic multiplex operators collected in ticket sales this past weekend is the industry's strongest showing in eight weeks. 

The bad news? Well, it's a bit of a list.

  • The box office receipts were 45% below the comparable weekend in 2019 when $137.7 million in tickets were sold. And the result was still 30% off from the $109.3 million that theaters collected for the same weekend last year. 
  • Exhibitors were hoping for more. The top draw was Comcast's (CMCSA -1.92%) Halloween Ends, accounting for more than half of all audience counts. The $41.2 million debut is the strongest premiere in nearly three months, but it landed well short of the $55 million industry watchers were expecting. 
  • The film was the third installment in a reboot of the iconic horror franchise billed as the final confrontation between Michael Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode, but it was no Avengers: Endgame. It opened 46% below the 2018 reboot that kicked off the trilogy, but also 16% lower than last year's Halloween Kills.
  • You can't blame Comcast's decision to make the film freely available at home to its existing Peacock streaming service subscribers for the soft showing. Comcast's Universal did the same thing last October with Halloween Kills
Two people in a movie theater.

Image source: Getty Images.

Unwrapped candy

AMC stock did surge 6% on Monday, but it was lifted by a rally in most high-beta investments. The shares are still 72% below their 52-week highs, adjusted for this summer's poorly received preferred stock spinoff

Confidence has been waning as ticket sales for the industry have languished after an initially promising start this summer. Late last week an AMC subsidiary priced an offering of $400 million in aggregate principal amount of 12.75% due in five years at $0.92 on the dollar. The move will help cover debt that was due to mature next year, but selling 12.75% five-year notes at an 8% discount translates to a yield to maturity closer to 15%. 

Thankfully help is on the way. Forget about Halloween Ends. The last movie had a short tail, and this one will, too. If you didn't catch it at the theater during its opening weekend you're probably just going to stream it at home this point. Smile has turned out to be the sleeper hit of the horror movie season, and the Myers-Strode showdown will be a distant second. 

The real savior for October will come this weekend when Black Adam gives multiplex operators the first legit superhero blockbuster in three months. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and the first of four planned Avatar sequels should bring audiences back to the local movie house. This is certainly a challenging time for movie theater stocks, but AMC isn't standing still. Halloween Ends was a trick, but the treats are coming.