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 have choosen to shelter at home.

The biggest names in the movie theater industry include AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. (AMC) and Imax Corp. (IMAX). While there is no benchmark for publicly traded movie theater companies, a helpful benchmark is the Russell 1000, which has provided 1-year trailing total returns of 48.3% as of March 10. All other figures below are as of March 11.

Here are the top 3 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 price-to-sales 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
AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. (AMC) 9.85 3.3 0.4
Cineworld Group PLC ( CNNWF) 1.40 1.9 0.7
Cinemark Holdings Inc. ( CNK) 24.48 2.9 4.2

Source: YCharts

  • AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.: AMC Entertainment is a holding company that, through its subsidiaries, provides movie theater services including movie screening, food, online ticket booking, and similar services. The company operates theaters worldwide. AMC reported a net loss of $946.1 million for Q4 2020 versus a net loss of $13.5 million for Q4 2019, as well as a year-over-year (YOY) revenue decline of 88.8%. The company had to re-suspend operations at many of its reopened theaters during Q4 as a result of a resurgence of COVID-19.
  • Cineworld Group PLC: Cineworld Group is a U.K.-based cinema operator with locations throughout the U.K. and Ireland. The company specializes in corporate and private events using digital projection facilities to display a variety of media.
  • Cinemark Holdings Inc.: Cinemark is a holding company that, through its subsidiaries, owns and operates movie theaters. Cinemark reported a net loss of $239.7 million for Q4 2020 versus net income of $26.8 million for Q4 2019 as total revenue plummeted. As of December 31, 2020, the company had 217 domestic and 129 international theaters open at limited hours.

Movie Theater Stocks With the Least Sales Decline

These are the movie theater stocks with the least YOY sales decline for the most recent quarter. A company’s ability to maintain sales in a difficult business environment can be a sign of good management and/or a strong business model.

Movie Theater Stocks With the Least Sales Decline
  Price ($) Market Cap ($B) Revenue Growth (%)
IMAX Corp. (IMAX) 22.81 1.3 -55.0
Cinemark Holdings Inc. (CNK) 24.48 2.9 -87.6
National CineMedia Inc. ( NCMI) 5.22 0.4 -89.3

Source: YCharts

  • IMAX Corp.: IMAX is a Canadian company providing 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. In Q4 2020, IMAX reported strong box office sales that reached near pre-pandemic levels in China and Japan, but the company posted a net loss as overall sales declined YOY.
  • Cinemark Holdings Inc.: See above for company description.
  • National CineMedia Inc.: National CineMedia is an owner and operator of movie theaters throughout the U.S. The company offers entertainment content, movie screening services, and advertising services. In Q4 2020, it posted a $35.2 million net loss as total revenue declined 89.3%. As of December 31, 2020, less than half of National CineMedia theaters were open, forcing it to furlough, lay off, and reduce salaries for a large portion of employees.

Movie Theater Stocks With the Most Momentum

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

Movie Theater Stocks With the Most Momentum
  Price ($) Market Cap ($B) 12-Month Trailing Total Return (%)
AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. (AMC) 9.85 3.3 134.5
IMAX Corp. (IMAX) 22.81 1.3 49.3
Cinemark Holdings Inc. (CNK) 24.48 2.9 11.2
Russell 1000 N/A N/A 48.3

Source: YCharts

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

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