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Analyst: It's 'nearly impossible' for AMC to survive COVID-19 without a strategy shift

Alexandra Canal
·3 min read

Movie theater chains have suffered massive losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic — and the situation could become much more bleak without more fiscal aid or financial support.

Earlier this week, Pfizer’s positive vaccine news sent entertainment stocks surging as the sector embraced the possibility of a return to a pre-pandemic existence.

But life might not ever return to ‘normal’ for in-person entertainment, and the beaten down industry seems to be running out of time.

AMC (AMC) reported a nearly $1 billion loss in the third quarter, and on Tuesday filed to offer another 20 million shares. The obvious objective is to keep the company afloat, as the threat of bankruptcy looms with COVID-19 cases continuing to surge across the country.

“I think it’s going to be near impossible for [AMC] to last without doing something else,” Macquarie analyst Chad Beynon told Yahoo Finance.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 20: Joey Walsh sanitizes the concession stand at AMC Town Square 18 on August 20, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 20: Joey Walsh sanitizes the concession stand at AMC Town Square 18 on August 20, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“To get through this, [AMC will] have to do something from a portfolio trimming and asset monetization standpoint,” he explained, referring to a strategy that may involve selling off properties, or at least finding ways to make them generate cash.

“They have roughly $400 million in cash right now but [they’re] burning $100 million a month,” Beynon added.

“That gets them into this February, March time period — which is pretty close to when most people think consumers will get out, so really the only way [to minimize that bankruptcy risk] is to do something with their portfolio,” he continued.

‘Praying there won’t be more delays’

Movie delays due to COVID-19
Movie delays due to COVID-19

Since April, AMC has raised roughly a billion dollars “to essentially stay afloat,” Beynon said. Still, it’s been difficult for the theater chain to attract consumers amid increased film delays.

Highly anticipated tentpoles like Marvel’s “Black Widow,” MGM’s “No Time To Die,” and WB’s “Dune” have all delayed their release dates to 2021.

So far, the only big blockbuster left in 2020 is “Wonder Woman: 1984,” which is still on track for a December 25, 2020 debut although it seems unlikely that that date will stick.

On Friday, reports emerged that Warner Bros. executives are debating the film’s release strategy — mulling either a January HBO Max (T) release, or a possible delay to summer 2021.

“Those blockbuster movies that generate about $100 million domestically, they account for about 60% of the box office in the U.S., so they're critical to keeping these businesses afloat,” Beynon told Yahoo Finance.

“The problem with this is the theaters are open. They're waiting for the content, and they're just sitting and praying that there won't be more delays,” he added.

In the interim, theaters are rolling out on innovative alternates to help offset costs. On Tuesday, AMC announced it will launch a program where anyone can privately rent out a movie theater. That followed a four-week trial where the theater chain said it received over 110,000 requests across the country.

Prices begin at $99 and include tickets for up to 20 people. Meanwhile, newly-released film like Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” are a bit pricier — with costs ranging from $149 and $349.

“Certainly desperate times call for desperate measures. AMC has done their part in terms of sanitizing the theaters and doing everything they can do for the consumers to come in and they just have not come,” Beynon said.

“I don’t think it’s going to do much from a cash flow perspective, but it can certainly get people back to theaters, which is what they need,” he continued.

Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193

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