I'm a sucker for those vintage cartoon vignettes that they used to show at movie houses and drive-ins with oversized candy bars and soda cups singing about going to the lobby as they marched along with cannibalistic glee.

The world's largest theater operator, Regal Entertainment (NYSE:RGC), has certainly been trying to give its shareholders an intermission treat. Letting everyone know that $8 tubs of popcorn can make for a good business, the company has been spending its money liberally lately.

After a controversial distribution of $5 per share to its investors, the multiplex master opened its pocketbook even wider earlier this month when it initiated a $50 million share buyback and hiked its quarterly dividend from $0.20 to $0.30 a share. That last move may inspire some of our Income Investor newsletter readers to take a closer look at the company and its fat 6.3% annual yield.

Last night there was another tab to pay as the company was cleared to go through with its proposed acquisition of the Signature chain of theaters in California and Hawaii. Before the company breaks into some zany "Free Twizzlers for everyone" offer, let's take a closer look at Regal and its generous ways.

A cynic would point to Qwest (NYSE:Q) founder Philip Anschutz and his 57% stake in the company. He holds an even larger share of Regal's voting power so these massive payouts that are filling his pockets also come with his blessing. He's obviously entitled to the greenery -- as is any Regal investor.

So is this some grand, theatrical curtain call? A secret exit strategy? One look at Regal's balance sheet and one has to wonder what the company is thinking. This isn't Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) or Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), with wads of cash lying dormant. As of June the company was sporting more current liabilities than current assets -- along with $1.6 billion in long-term debt.

There is nothing wrong with being a leveraged company, but isn't this like asking a charity whether it will take credit card donations because you just don't have the money? Scooping up smaller rivals in a fragmented sector may make good business sense, but hold on to that pocket change, OK? Someone's going to have to pay for all of those Twizzlers!

Have you been to the movies lately? What did you see? Are you ready for the summer blockbusters to yield the right of way to classy autumn popcorn munchers? All this and more in the Great Movies discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys Regal's cinemas, but you will usually find him at a nearby AMC. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story.