How The ‘Apes’ Took Over AMC

AMC, the world’s largest movie-theater chain, is now over 80% owned by everyday investors. Which means CEO Adam Aron has a new boss: The ‘apes.’ WSJ’s Alexander Gladstone and Erich Schwartzel introduce the online movement that saved AMC. And self-declared ‘ape’ investor David Dumas explains why he jumped in.

This transcript was prepared by a transcription service. This version may not be in its final form and may be updated.

Ryan Knutson: 2021 was the year of the meme stock. People who’d never invested before jumped into the market head first. And a lot of companies benefited, Gamestop, Bed Bath & Beyond, Blackberry. But one company stood out for the longevity of its rise and for the fervor of its fans, AMC, the movie theater chain. And the new investors who embraced the company, adopted a nickname for themselves, the apes. The name is a reference to The Planet of the Apes movies, about a band of primates that overthrows mankind.

Video: Apes win war. Apes together strong.

Ryan Knutson: One of those self-proclaimed ape investors was David Dumas. Tell me about your shirt.

David Dumas: So my shirt, this is a … It says on the front here, I’ve got Apes Together Strong, and then I’ve got on the sleeves, I’ve got Diamond Hands.

Ryan Knutson: Nice. David is an operations manager at a moving company. He lives in Colorado in an 1100 square foot home with his wife, three daughters, and a lot of pets.

David Dumas: So I’ve got four dogs. I’ve got three German shepherds and a little Jack Russell. I’ve got the three little girls. One of them’s got three cats. One of them’s got a bearded lizard. One of them’s got a fish.

Ryan Knutson: Wow.

David Dumas: And we’ve got a duck.

Ryan Knutson: That sounds like a full house.

David Dumas: It is a very full house. Nothing I could do about it. I just, I kept coming home and the wife and the kids would always have a new animal every day up to the point I said, “No more, absolutely until we get a bigger house.”

Ryan Knutson: But a bigger house doesn’t seem likely, not in the near-term anyway.

David Dumas: I’ve never really had money. I live paycheck to paycheck, which is probably the main reason why I got into investing.

Ryan Knutson: David got into investing early this year. And it was an exciting time to jump in. Everything seemed to be going up, including AMC. How much money did you put into AMC in the beginning?

David Dumas: $2,600 is what I have into AMC. The way that I did that was just through tips and the stimulus.

Ryan Knutson: Did you think that this investment might give you enough money that you could like pay off your mortgage or …

David Dumas: Absolutely. This investment was going to get my foot in the door. Absolutely. That was the … That’s how it made me feel. I was so convicted in this thing too, that I knew that this was going to be it, that this was going to be … Well, it’s going to help me secure my family’s future, right? The financial security part of it. I figured that millions of us couldn’t be wrong. Right? That’s that was my … That was the whole thing. It was a gamble though. But again, I knew it was a gamble, but I was excited about it.

Ryan Knutson: And that gamble seemed to pay off. As millions of investors like David jumped in, AMC’s stock shot up from $2 at the start of the year to $20 in a matter of weeks. In June, it shot up even more to 60 bucks, then to 70 bucks. David says that at one point he was looking at over $10,000 in his investment account, more money than he’d ever seen in one place in his life. But he didn’t sell because for David and a lot of other apes, AMC had become about more than just the money. It was about reclaiming the markets for regular people.David Dumas: I joined AMC in the beginning for the money. I can make a lot of money here real quick, which I could have. But no. I’m here for the movement.Ryan Knutson: Now that ape movement owns AMC. And that’s big implications for the company and its leader. Welcome to The Journal, our show about money, business, and power. I’m Ryan Knutson. It’s Thursday, December 23rd. Coming up on the show, what happened when the apes took […]

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