AMC could run out of money by the end of the year

October 13, 2020, 6:44 PM UTC

AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. said it may soon run out of cash amid fresh signs that the pandemic is pushing cinema operators close to default.

The world’s biggest theater chain said in a filing Tuesday that liquidity will be largely depleted by the end of this year or early next year if attendance doesn’t pick up, and it’s exploring actions that include asset sales and joint ventures. AMC’s shares sunk to the lowest since April.

“Bankruptcy is an almost foregone conclusion,” CreditSights analyst Matt Zloto said in an interview. “The writing is on the wall.”

A representative for AMC didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

Attendance since the resumption of business in the U.S. is down 85% from the same period a year ago, the company said. AMC has been hobbled by the coronavirus outbreak, which discourages some patrons from coming and studios from releasing blockbusters that might attract them. The company earlier disclosed an 81% decline in moviegoers through Sept. 14.

AMC is looking for sources of liquidity to ride out the pandemic, including asset sales and joint ventures, but cautions there is “significant risk” that its efforts may fall short or fail. Other actions could include debt and equity financing, continued talks with landlords on rent reductions and arrangements with existing business partners.

Given where the company’s debt and equity is trading, the Leawood, Kansas-based chain may have trouble tapping those markets for fresh cash, Zloto said. AMC’s bonds due 2025 fell 1.5 cents on the dollar to trade around 66 cents Tuesday, according to Trace trading data. Its shares fell as much as 11% to $3.63.

“Unless you can isolate the risks for a new equity investor, it would be challenging to see a sophisticated investor get involved when the liquidity picture looks so bleak,” Zloto said. Asset sales might be a more promising avenue for the company if it can garner interest in theaters located in a specific country or region, he added.

Attendance dilemma

Cinema chains are facing a chicken-and-egg problem with no near-term solution: As local capacity restrictions and audience skittishness keep U.S. theaters largely empty, studios are delaying most of their major film releases into 2021 and beyond, which gives consumers still less reason to buy tickets.

Cineworld Group Plc, owner of the Regal chain, earlier this month suspended operations at its U.S. and U.K. locations because of the lack of big movies. It’s preparing for talks with its creditors to reduce its debt pile.

AMC pledged to stay open, citing releases of less ambitious movies still on the schedule such as “The War With Grandpa.” Illustrating the industry’s woes, that Robert De Niro vehicle opened with a paltry weekend gross of $3.6 million in North America.

AMC has resumed operations at just under 500 of its 598 U.S. theaters with limited capacity, the company said. It adjusted operating hours to align costs with attendance levels for each theater.