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AMC stock roars amid boost from Reddit, meme stock squeeze

Shares of movie theater chain AMC Entertainment (AMC) rallied in midday trading on Monday, following a surge last week and amid a renewed push on Reddit to squeeze short sellers.

AMC, which was hit especially hard by COVID-19 lockdowns, is one of a group of heavily shorted so-called meme stocks — including GameStop (GME) and Bed Bath and Beyond (BBBY). Retail investors active on Reddit have bought up these stocks in an effort to force short sellers to buy them, as well to cover their losses — driving the companies' stock prices even higher.

The theater chain— whose shares have spiked over 500% this year — started last week trading at $9.90, closed Thursday at $12.77, and hit a high of $14.38 on Monday, up over 5% on the day.

Taking advantage of the recent gains, the largest theater chain in the U.S. said last week that it had sold 43 million shares at $9.94 a share, raising a total of $428 million. That move came as the hashtag "AMCsqueeze" began trending on Twitter.

The gains come after the movie theater chain was hammered by a global pandemic that resulted in a $4.59 billion loss in 2020 compared to $149 million the year prior. Recently, though, CEO Adam Aron suggested that AMC fared better than other movie theater chains.

During a call with analysts after reporting its first-quarter results earlier this month, Aron said its market share had "soared" by 25% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

“We’ve taken share from those who stayed closed or those who have gone bankrupt,” according to a Wall Street Journal report. Smaller chains like Alamo Drafthouse have filed for bankruptcy and closed a number of locations.

AMC may also benefit from increased vaccination rates, with 37% of the U.S. population now fully vaccinated. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, predicted last month that Americans could potentially go to the movies without wearing masks by the fall or early winter.

Still, even amid the waning pandemic and revived enthusiasm among short sellers, one veteran media analyst told Yahoo Finance last week that AMC is in "secular decline" as more and more streaming options become available.

"There's going to be a lot of movies where you just say, I'll wait and see it at home, and the movie theater business economically, it means they're gonna make less money," said Rich Greenfield, partner at LightShed Partners, in an interview with Yahoo Finance Live.

"This is one of the reasons we have a 'sell' rating on AMC," he added.

Erin Fuchs is deputy managing editor at Yahoo Finance.

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