AMC Entertainment, the theater chain and darling of the meme stock crowd, is hoping to profit as more people stay home to watch movies on streaming networks like Netflix and Disney+. How? In the immortal words of NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Owens: Getcha popcorn ready.
AMC announced last week that it hired a veteran consumer products executive to try to ramp up its business of selling its popcorn at retail stores, not just in theaters.
Ellen Copaken, previously an executive at Pepsi’s (PEP) Frito-Lay snack unit and Twinkies owner Hostess Brands (TWNK), will start at AMC Friday as the company’s vice president of growth strategy. It’s a new position for AMC and Copaken will report to the chief strategy officer, Mark Pearson.
AMC first said in November that it was planning to make a bigger bet on the popcorn business.
CEO Adam Aron told investors on AMC’s earnings conference call that month that the company planned to open up popcorn kiosks at retailers this year to take advantage of the fact that “we have terrific long-standing business relationships with the biggest and best mall operators around.”
Aron added that AMC was in discussions to start selling an AMC-branded line of microwave popcorn and also partner with food delivery services to make its popcorn a take-out option.
AMC said in an email to CNN Business it had no further comment about the Copaken hiring or plans to expand its popcorn business.
But AMC’s decision to go all-in on popcorn outside the theater is a bold call. In some respects, it’s an admission that the movie industry has fundamentally changed.
Although viewers are still willing to go out to see big blockbusters like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in theaters, the combination of the pandemic and an abundance of streaming options have led to a change in consumer habits.
More to AMC than big screens at the multiplex
AMC, to its credit, is trying to adapt to this new reality. In addition to its popcorn plans, the company also announced in November that it hopes to profit from strong demand for cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), the digital assets which have taken the collectibles world by storm.
“This is the 21st century after all, and it would seem that there may be a real opportunity for AMC in these areas,” Aron said.
Aron noted that the company is looking into partnerships that would let it accept cryptocurrencies as payment for movie tickets and concession stand items. AMC is even thinking about launching its own cryptocurrency.
Aron added that the theater chain is “in conversation with multiple major Hollywood studios about the concept of joint venturing commemorative NFTs related to major film titles that show in our theaters.”
These are some of the reasons why investors, particularly meme stock fans on Reddit, have fallen in love with AMC. They appreciate that Aron is thinking outside the (popcorn) box.
Shares of AMC soared nearly 1,200% last year while the stocks of rivals Cinemark (CNK), IMAX (IMAX) and UK-based Regal and United Artists owner Cineworld all fell.
But it’s a different story this year. AMC, along with other meme stocks such as GameStop (GME), have fallen out of favor. AMC is down 25% so far in 2022 while the other three movie theater stocks have rallied.
AMC still faces many challenges. Even though revenue is expected to nearly double in 2022, analysts are forecasting that the company will lose money again after racking up red ink in 2020 and 2021. (AMC reported a preliminary net loss for the fourth quarter of 2021 earlier this month.)
It’s also not certain that AMC will be able to make a huge dent in the retail popcorn market.
The company faces formidable competition from consumer product giants who have established relationships with grocery stores. Campbell Soup (CPB) owns Pop Secret while ConAgra (CAG) is the parent company of Orville Redenbacher, stove top favorite Jiffy Pop and microwave brand Act II.
Analysts aren’t fans of the stock either. According to Refinitiv, three analysts have AMC rated a hold and six are recommending a sell. No analysts surveyed have a buy on the stock and the consensus price target is about $10.45 a share, nearly 50% below current levels.
But it may be a mistake to count AMC out. An army of individual investors still love to rankle Wall Street pros and short sellers who bet against the stock.