Movie theater companies own and operate cinemas and concession stands in both local and national chain models. As a component of the consumer discretionary sector, movie theaters tend to perform well when customers have disposable income and poorly when the economy is struggling or during times of market turbulence. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated movie theaters as a group due to plummeting attendance, both due to the economic recession and because millions of consumers chose to shelter at home. While the industry has begun to recover in recent months as vaccines have become more widespread, the recovery has been generally slow and erratic.

The biggest names in the movie theater industry include AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. (AMC) and IMAX Corporation. (IMAX). There are only about 5 companies that trade in this sector, and only 3 of those are of a meaningful size and liquidity to trade easily. Though there is no benchmark for publicly traded movie theater companies, a helpful benchmark is the Russell 1000 Index, which has provided 1-year trailing total returns of 35.8% as of Sept. 9. All figures below are also as of Sept. 9, 2021.

Here are the top three movie theater stocks with the best value, least sales decline, and most momentum. None of the stocks in our screen had positive earnings per share (EPS).

Best Value Movie Theater Stocks

These are the movie theater stocks with the lowest 12-month trailing price-to-sales (P/S) ratio. For companies in early stages of development or industries suffering from major shocks, this can be substituted as a rough measure of a business's value. The P/S ratio shows how much you're paying for the stock for each dollar of sales generated.

Best Value Movie Theater Stocks
  Price ($) Market Cap ($B) 12-Month Trailing P/S Ratio
Cinemark Holdings, Inc. (CNK) 17.30 2.1 3.7
Imax Corp. (IMAX) 15.61 0.9 5.0
AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. (AMC) 48.52 24.9 15.8

Source: YCharts

  • Cinemark Holdings, Inc.: Cinemark is a holding company that, through its subsidiaries, owns and operates movie theaters. The company has operations throughout the U.S. and Latin America. Cinemark reported narrowing net losses on soaring revenue growth year-over-year (YOY) for Q2 2021. The results were a relatively easy comparison to Q2 2020, which was heavily impacted by the closure of the company's theaters for the majority of the quarter.
  • IMAX Corp.: IMAX is a bit different than the other stocks on our list because the Canadian company makes equipment in addition to operating movie theaters. It provides end-to-end cinematic solutions, including proprietary software, theater architecture, and equipment. The company has four segments: network business, theater business, new business, and other. Like Cinemark above, IMAX reported narrowing net losses on significant revenue growth YOY for Q2 2021, as well as its best quarterly gross margin and adjusted EPS of the pandemic era, and it's third straight quarter of positive EBITDA.
  • AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc.: AMC Entertainment is a holding company that, through its subsidiaries, provides movie theater services including movie screenings, food, online ticket booking, and other similar services. The company operates theaters worldwide. AMC has become a subject of interest on the popular trader platform WallStreetBets in recent months. This popularity and the development of AMC as a "meme stock" has pushed the company's share price up immensely. Over the Labor Day weekend in 2021, AMC saw a record of more than 2 million customers in its U.S. theaters. This marked the first weekend in 2021 that surpassed attendance compared with the same weekend in 2019, which preceded the pandemic.

Fastest Growing Movie Theater Stocks

These are the movie theater stocks with the highest YOY sales growth for the most recent quarter. Rising sales can help investors identify companies that are able to grow revenue through organic or new ways, and find growing companies that have not yet reached profitability. In addition, earnings per share can be significantly influenced by accounting factors that may not reflect the overall strength of the business. However, sales growth can also be potentially misleading about the strength of a business, because growing sales on money-losing businesses can be harmful if the company has no plan to reach profitability.

Fastest Growing Movie Theater Stocks
  Price ($) Market Cap ($B) Revenue Growth (%)
Cinemark Holdings, Inc. (CNK) 17.30 2.1 3,180
AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. (AMC) 48.52 24.9 2,250
IMAX Corp. (IMAX) 15.61 0.9 475.4

Source: YCharts

  • Cinemark Holdings, Inc.: See above for company description.
  • AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.: See above for company description.
  • IMAX Corp.: See above for company description.

Movie Theater Stocks With the Most Momentum

These are the movie theater stocks that had the highest total return over the past 12 months.

Movie Theater Stocks With the Most Momentum
  Price ($) Market Cap ($B) 12-Month Trailing Total Return (%)
AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. (AMC) 48.52 24.9 675.1
Cinemark Holdings Inc. (CNK) 17.30 2.1 25.9
IMAX Corp. (IMAX) 15.61 0.9 4.7
Russell 1000 Index N/A N/A 35.8

Source: YCharts

  • AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc.: See above for company description.
  • Cinemark Holdings Inc.: See above for company description.
  • IMAX Corp.: See above for company description.

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