Why did AMC stock surge today? Return of the meme – and 'Maverick'

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AMC Entertainment stock (NYSE:AMC) rose steadily throughout a robust stock-market day to finish up 18% – its biggest gain in two months, on volume nearly 80% higher than normal.

One reason for investor optimism may be a new box-office jolt after a few weeks of (relative) slowdown in theaters; new Tom Cruise action film Top Gun: Maverick is opening on a record number of screens (4,732 in all) and is expected by many to bring some $100 million in receipts by the time people return to work on Tuesday.

AMC CEO Adam Aron has been pumping the film as “in my view, among the best movies you will ever see,” and he’s following the company’s recent strategy of offering limited-edition nonfungible tokens tied to the film as a perk.

But more important in the move may be the return of the “meme stock.” The last time AMC moved this much – it jumped 44.9% on March 28 – it was joined by strong moves in GameStop (GME) and Bed Bath and Beyond (BBBY), which did another one of their sharp moves higher as a group.

Indeed, AMC’s Friday move up was its third strong session in a row, coinciding with similar gains from other so-called meme stocks. A basket of 37 meme stocks including AMC rose more than 9% on Thursday after moving up 9% on Wednesday. For its part, AMC rose more than 14% Wednesday and gained 3.2% on Thursday.

Those gains are nice but some heights are still in the rear-view mirror for now: AMC stock has still lost half its value since the end of March (and it’s 80% below its 52-week high).