Movie Theater Stock Upgraded on "Escapism" Potential

Calls are popular in the options pits today in response

Deputy Editor
Aug 20, 2020 at 10:35 AM
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The shares of Cinemark Holdings, Inc (NYSE:CNK) are up 3% to trade at $11.49 at last check, after an upgrade from Benchmark to "buy" from "hold" with an $18 price target. The firm cited cinema reopenings, a return towards normalcy as coronavirus cases lessen, and an increased need for "escapism" that the theater can provide during these times. 

CNK has struggled to rebound on the charts since its mid-March lows, spending most of the summer months trading sideways with support at the $11 region. Year-to-date, the equity is down around 67%, with additional pressure emerging at its 80-day moving average.

Coming into today the analyst backdrop was in favor of the bulls, with five out of nine analysts sporting a "strong buy" on Cinemark stock and the remaining four at a tepid "hold." Meanwhile, the 12-month consensus target price of $16.25 is a 43.8% premium to current levels.

A short squeeze could fuel a possible breakout. Short interest increased by almost 10% in the most recent reporting period. Yet the 17.13 million shares sold short account for 17.5% of the stock's available float, or 3.5 days to cover at CNK's average pace of trading. 

Meanwhile, the options pits have been buzzing with bullish activity. CNK's 50-day call/put volume ratio of 3.83 at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Cboe Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) stands higher than 96% of readings from the past year, meaning long calls are being picked up at a much faster-than-usual rate. 

Today is more of the same, with calls crossing at three times the average intraday amount and 10 times the number of puts traded. Most popular are the August and September 12.5-strike calls, meaning a good amount of options traders are betting on more upside for CNK by the time the August contract expires tomorrow, and by next month. 


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