The Slatest

Did Reddit Just, Uh, Save the Movie Theater Business?

Maybe!

Snow-covered AMC sign outside a movie theater
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Amid all the wild news stories in the past few days of Reddit-inspired investors snapping up GameStop stock, hedge funds scurrying for cover, and trading platforms called “Robinhood” suddenly deciding that helping the poor steal from the rich is not their business model, there’s been a particularly surprising development. GameStop is not the only stonk that has been meme-driven into the stratosphere. Other companies that, like GameStop, have been heavily shorted by investors—like department stores Macy’s and Dillard’s—also soared Wednesday. So did a number of companies that seem to basically have been chosen by whim, including Tootsie Roll, Koss headphones, Roku, and a trio of businesses that have nothing in common other than the letters “BB” in their stock tickers: Bed Bath & Beyond, BlackBerry, and Build-a-Bear Workshop. Hell, Redditors pushed a teensy Australian mining company’s stock up more than 50 percent yesterday simply because its symbol on the Australian stock exchange happens to be GME.

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And then there’s the case of AMC, the movie theater chain. Investtitors (just coining that now) pushed AMC stock up 300 percent Wednesday, and the company capitalized. Thanks to Twitter attorney and golden retriever @nycsouthpaw for pulling this detail out of a Bloomberg story this afternoon:

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In addition to erasing $600 million of debt through bond conversion, AMC also managed to parlay this week’s viral fame into another $300 million in capitalization, thanks to a well-timed stock offering. AMC has been a bellwether of the movie business’s coronavirus-related struggles for a year now, as the company closed theaters, reopened them, watched audiences fail to show up for Tenet, sold all its theaters in the Baltics, struck a deal with Universal to stream new releases, and still lost $900 million in the third quarter of 2020. The death of movie theaters, long a talking point, started to seem like not just a reality but an inevitability, and sooner rather than later. But now, just like that, a movie theater chain on the edge of disappearance has a chance to make it through the spring and summer and possibly into the post-COVID era, when Americans, bored of their TVs and their houses, will attend triple features every Saturday.

So amid all the mischief Reddit has gotten up to this week, they’ve (maybe!) (possibly!) saved the movie theater business. I find it heartening that these supposedly amoral meme trolls have, in addition to raining hell down on hedge funds, put their collective weight behind rescuing movie theaters, something that’s actually worth saving. (It’s like Kickstarter, but terrifyingly random!) I’m excited to find out what beloved, marginally profitable cultural institution might next be juiced by the fine people of r/wallstreetbets. Woodworking? Live theater? Online opinion journalism???

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