The AMC 25 Theatres in Times Square in New York is seen on Tuesday, July 8, 2014.
Richard Levine | Corbis News | Getty Images

AMC Entertainment on Tuesday reported another quarterly loss despite higher revenue from a year ago, as it spent more on operational costs.

The world’s largest movie theater chain is contending with a massive debt load, dilution of its stock and a film release schedule short on blockbusters. While the summer box office was strong, August and September were more tepid, as studios released fewer films on the big screen.

For the period ended Sept. 30, the company’s net loss increased slightly from a year ago to $226.9, or 22 cents per share, which was wasn’t as steep as Wall Street expected. Revenue rose and also beat expectations. AMC said its overall per-patron metrics were up when it came to admissions revenue and increased consumer spending on food and beverages at its theaters.

Here’s what the company reported, versus what Wall Street expected, according to a Refinitiv survey of analysts:

  • Loss per share:  loss of 22 cents adjusted vs. a loss of 26 cents expected
  • Revenue: $968 million vs. $961.1 million expected

The company’s stock was down nearly 4% in after-hours trading.

AMC has been working to lighten its debt load. In October it refinanced and paid down some of its debt, extending its maturities out to 2027, after completing a $400 million private offering.

The company came back from the brink of bankruptcy in 2021 thanks to millions of retail investors who turned its shares into a meme stock. Since then, AMC has devised several plans to raise more capital to pay down its debts and invest in acquisitions, theater upgrades, a popcorn business and even a gold mine.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said CEO Adam Aron on Tuesday’s call with investors. “While the box office is unmistakably on the rise, it’s still falling short to pre-pandemic levels.”

While AMC has a significant war chest of cash, it continues to spend more than it makes each quarter on operations including concession costs, film exhibition costs and rent. The company said it burned more than $179 million in cash during the third quarter.

The company will continue to invest in its theaters, upgrading movie screens and increasing the number of special effects screens, such as IMAX and Dolby Cinema, across its footprint.

CFO Sean Goodman said on Tuesday’s call that the company expects its cash burn to improve during the fourth quarter. While reducing debt and increasing its liquidity are its key initiatives, the company is open to exploring “attractive opportunities,” and has been keeping an eye on its movie theater competitors that have been struggling financially.

Earlier this year, AMC issued a dividend to common shareholders in the form of preferred shares called “APE.” But the company was unable to fully capitalize on selling off the new shares before investors pulled their support, analysts say. 

The company said it will sell up to 425 million of these preferred shares. As of Tuesday, it sold roughly 14.9 million shares, which raised net proceeds of about $36.4 million.

Audiences have returned to cinemas in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and are spending more than ever on tickets and popcorn. However, the lack of steady theatrical releases will weigh heavily on the industry during the final months of the year.

The domestic box office tallied $1.95 billion in ticket sales between July 1 and Sept. 30, down 31% from 2019 levels, according to ComScore. The box office also saw fewer wide releases during the period compared with pre-pandemic times, with only 19 films debuting in more than 2,000 locations during their opening weekends, down 24% from 2019.

AMC management expects the upcoming release of Walt Disney’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” to be one of the biggest box office performances of the year.

Theaters are expected to see a stronger slate of film releases in 2023, and AMC should be able to ride out the lack of releases until then because of its significant cash stockpile.

Shares of AMC have declined nearly 80% since January and hit a 52-week low on Monday, slipping to $5.17 a piece, ahead of the company’s earnings report Tuesday. Aron attributed AMC’s falling stock price to macroeconomic headwinds, namely inflation, and the performance of competitors such as Cineworld, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the company’s CFO, Sean Goodman.

By Umiddoc