Despite the rapid spread of a new Covid-19 variant, both AMC (AMC) - Get AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. Class A Report and rival Cinemark (CNK) - Get Cinemark Holdings, Inc. Report got some much-needed good news last weekend when "Spider-Man: No Way Home" delivered a $260.1 million opening at the U.S. box office,
But your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man won't be trying to save the day for AMC and Cinemark all by himself.
This weekend, Spidey won't be joined by Iron Man, Thor, Hulk or any other new Avengers pals. Instead, he'll have the latest Matrix sequel, "Matrix: Resurrections" and the animated sequel "Sing 2."
Neither has a realistic chance of toppling Spider-Man from the top of the charts, but both should be able to deliver reasonably strong box office numbers.
The Marvel hero and Avenger should deliver another strong weekend, but that still likely means a 50% to 60% drop in returns for the Sony (SNE) - Get Sony Corp. Report starring the Walt Disney (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report hero.
And all predictions remain subject to the added volatility caused by unanswered questions about the omicron variant.
American theatergoers were undeterred when it came to seeing "Spider-Man: No Way Home" last weekend, but more cities imposing mask mandates or even limiting theater capacities (as some theaters in Canada have done, according to BoxOfficePro) could change the actual results.
What Will Christmas Weekend Box Office Look Like?
U.S. theaters remain open but it's possible that some states or cities will impose new rules designed to stop the spread of the omicron variant over the holiday period.
But with Christmas Eve falling on a Friday and the big day itself taking place on a Saturday, we may also see a change in typical theatergoing patterns.
Thursday night may have bigger crowds than usual as many schools end their year on Wednesday, and Sunday could draw more moviegoers, or at least more families, because Monday may be a day off for the adults while the kids are also home.
If Spider-Man only drops by 50%, that would put it below both "Avengers: Endgame" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which bother delivered just under $150 million in their second weekend.
"More realistically, though, finishing north of $100 million this weekend looks increasingly probable. Only six films in history have achieved that: the aforementioned Force Awakens and Endgame, plus Avengers: Infinity War ($114.8 million), Black Panther ($111.7 million), Jurassic World ($106.6 million), and The Avengers ($103.1 million)," wrote Shawn Robbins at BoxOfficePro, which forecasts box office results.
Robbins predicts "The Matrix: Resurrections" to deliver $22 million to $32 million in its opening three-day weekend and $37 million to $55 million during the five-day weekend. He write that he expects "Sing 2" to edge it out for the second place, with $30 million to 45 million over the three-day weekend and $45 million to $69 million through the five-day period.
Add that to Spider-Man's expected $90 million to $120 million haul along with other debuts including "The King's Man," and AMC and Cinemark should expect another weekend that approaches or breaks $200 million.
What Does This Mean for AMC Stock and Cinemark Stock?
It takes more than two weekends powered by a monster hit in the one genre (superheroes) that has been a consistent draw in the post-vaccines part of the pandemic.
Still, as more people go to the movies to see big films (or to fill time during the long school vacation period) that could open the door to pre-pandemic theater-going patterns to return.
Cinemark stock closed Dec. 22 up roughly 7.5% year-to-date, but down about a third from its 52-week high. AMC Stock remained up around 26% for the year at market close on Dec. 22 down to $28.68 from its 52-week high of $72.62.
AMC has been a popular stock with the Reddit meme investing community and its share price has not generally been related to its business performance.