Commentary

The Movie Business Is Running A Lingering Fever

Measuring the current health of the movie theatrical business is difficult. The script has no clear ending.

We can’t easily determine how much streaming platforms factor into traditional theatrical performance -- like box-office revenue (monthly subscription fees) or attendance (subscribers).

Likewise, we can’t just look at the health of the studio business, since those businesses are now judged on how all their platforms -- theatrical, linear TV, on-demand and streaming -- contribute to the whole.

And then we have AMC Entertainment, the largest U.S. theater chain, to consider. Throughout the pandemic, it did some seemingly fancy footwork to keep financially afloat, such as repeated successful stock offerings.

Complicating or helping matters -- depending on your point of view -- there was the whole “meme” stock thing, where average retail investors found reasons to boost stock prices of out-of-favor consumer product/services companies, including AMC, GameStop, BlackBerry and Bed Bath and Beyond.

In its recent third-quarter financial period, AMC Entertainment did some good work of its own, beating revenue expectations -- $763 million versus industry analyst estimates of $708, as well as narrowing its net losses.

Still, the stock sank 7% in after-market trading. Why? AMC CEO Adam Aron cautions that “even amid such good news, we are not yet where we want and need to be ... [and] the virus continues to be with us.”

AMC Entertainment continues to test other business areas beyond its traditional movie exhibition business. This includes making a deal with Universal Pictures in 2020 to share streaming revenues for theatrical movies that AMC helps promote, as well as showing NFL football games and other non-theatrical content.

If that isn’t enough, it now looks to accept cryptocurrency from potential customers to use at its theaters, as well as partnering with movie studios in creating NFTs (non-fungible tokens) -- one of a kind digital assets.

A brief overview of news headlines may tell a different story that the traditional theatrical business is on the upswing, due to recent movies pulling in decent opening weekends.

Credit Aron with being cautious. This follows some movie studios executive becoming more concerned that it will take three years or so to see the movie business get back to pre-pandemic levels where it pulled in $12 billion a year in U.S. box-office revenues.

Real movie theater recovery financial health has a difficult story line. And who’s the bad guy?

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