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MarketWatch First Take: ‘Avatar’ ticket sales better than expected, says AMC CEO Adam Aron

AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. CEO Adam Aron says that Hollywood blockbuster “Avatar: The Way of Water” is enjoying greater success at the box office this week than he expected. 

“Avatar: The Way of Water keeps on rolling. My predictions were easily surpassed,” he tweeted Tuesday. “This week, this blockbuster movie could exceed $600 million in domestic ticket sales and $1.8 billion globally.”

“So much for the doomsayers doubting the enduring appeal of movie theatres. #CHOKEonTHAT,” added the AMC
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CEO, who makes something of a habit of punchy tweets.

Also read: AMC highlights strong opening weekend for ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’, raises $162 million through APEs

On Saturday, Aron had tweeted that the new “Avatar” movie had “a good shot” at hitting the $550 million mark domestically this week.

“Avatar: The Way of Water,” which was made for Walt Disney Co.’s
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20th Century Studios, was one of the most anticipated movies of 2022 and hit theaters on Friday, Dec. 16. AMC said the movie enjoyed a strong opening weekend, with U.S. and global admissions revenue and food and beverage revenue finishing significantly higher than the same weekend in prepandemic 2019, which was led by the opening of “Jumanji: The Next Level.” 

“The film is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” Aron said in a statement released in December, adding that he had seen the movie twice over the opening weekend. 

Also read: AMC CEO Adam Aron will not sell more stock ‘any time soon,’ he tells investors: ‘I ride with you’

Director James Cameron’s sequel to 2009’s “Avatar” made $253.7 million domestically in the first 10 days following its December release, surpassing the $212.7 million made by its predecessor in its first 10 days. The original “Avatar” went on to be the highest-grossing film of all time.

Aron is a keen user of Twitter. Earlier this month, he used the platform to tell investors that he would not sell more of the theater chain’s stock “any time soon,” tweeting, “I ride with you.”

Aron subsequently reiterated his pledge not to sell more stock. “I am AMC’s largest retail shareholder,” he tweeted on Jan. 5.

Now read: ‘I am AMC’s largest retail shareholder’ says CEO Adam Aron, reiterating pledge to not sell more stock

Aron sold more than $40 million in AMC shares between November 2021 and January 2022.

In December, AMC’s stock plunged toward a 22-month low after the company announced a plan to raise $110 million in equity capital and said it was seeking a 1-for-10 reverse split of its common stock. Shares of the meme-stock darling have fallen 46.6% in the last 12 months, far outpacing the S&P 500’s 
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decline of 12.3%. The stock hit a 52-week low of $3.77 on Jan. 6.

AMC’s stock ended Tuesday’s session up 20% but was down 1.2% on Wednesday.

See: AMC’s CEO asks board to freeze his pay, wants other top execs to forgo raises: ‘No increase for those at the top is the right thing to do’

Earlier this month, Aron, who has led AMC since 2016, said he asked the company’s board to “red circle and freeze” his target cash and stock pay for 2023. He described his move in a series of tweets as AMC shares headed for their third consecutive decline after Aron announced the equity sale and plans for the reverse stock split.

The pay freeze is a move to assuage the cinema chain’s investors, according to Alicia Reese, vice president of equity research at Wedbush.

AMC, like fellow meme stock GameStop Corp.
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,
 was a major beneficiary of a trading frenzy in January 2021 that sent the struggling companies’ shares to dizzying heights.

Also see: What can we expect from meme stocks AMC, GameStop and Bed Bath & Beyond in 2023? 

AMC’s Preferred Equity units
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 or APEs, made their trading debut in August, heralding the latest chapter in a journey that took the cinema chain from beleaguered pandemic name to meme-stock phenomenon.

The APEs have fallen 72.2% since their debut. The name is a nod to the investors who turned the company into a meme stock, who often refer to themselves as “apes” or “ape nation.”

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