AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. gifted retail shareholders free popcorn. Meanwhile, Reddit day traders gave AMC a path to stability.

The movie theater operator has cashed in on its meme-stock status to raise some US$1.25 billion through equity offerings in recent months. That, combined with an improving outlook for the movie industry, warranted a credit upgrade from S&P Global Ratings.

S&P boosted AMC’s rating to CCC+ from CCC-, a two-notch upgrade that still leaves the company deeply in junk territory, according to a note published Thursday. If AMC uses its cash to pay down debt, refinances expensive debt incurred during the pandemic and sees improved theater attendance, it has “a path to a sustainable capital structure,” S&P analysts wrote, adding that they may upgrade the movie theater chain again in the future.

The move makes AMC the second meme stock to snag a credit upgrade amid frenzied retail buying that’s helped companies raise millions in share sales. S&P lifted GameStop Corp.’s rating one notch last month after the retailer raised US$551 million by selling equity.

Leawood, Kansas-based AMC’s stock had soared nearly 2,000 per cent this year. It closed at US$42.81 on Wednesday after sinking 13.2 per cent for the day. The company’s bonds due 2026, meanwhile, have soared past par to trade at 103.875 cents on the dollar after changing hands for as little as five cents in November 2020.