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Fans of ’99 cult comedy classic make plans to see ‘TheBest Man Holiday’ together

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Updated: July 16, 2014 4:39PM

Some movies develop a cult following and become a part of Americana in a way that nothing else can. “Sixteen Candles” was like that. So was the original “Star Wars.” And now? Enter “The Best Man Holiday,” the soon-to-be-released sequel to 1999’s “The Best Man.”

Scads of girlfriend groups (and plenty of guys) who saw the original movie back in the ’90s are planning swanky nights out for the upcoming opening weekend. Now in their late 30s to early 40s and married — or single — with kids, they are hiring sitters and returning to the romance-laden land of director Malcolm D. Lee’s creation.

“Sometimes it doesn’t work with sequels, but with ‘The Best Man’ it works because the original had such a good balance,” says Renita Austin, 43, who plans to attend the movie this weekend with 35 girlfriends who bond over a private Facebook group. “I’ve seen it at least a dozen times. When the sequel came out I said, ‘Let’s all go to the Showplace Icon.’ They waited long enough for this sequel. There’s just an anticipation.”

Indeed. Austin’s group is one of hundreds who already has purchased tickets and are scheduling dinners and discussions to take place immediately after the show. One prominent River North attorney is even flying to Phoenix to meet up with college girlfriends.

Members of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority are planning a complete takeover of the ICE Theater near 87th and Dan Ryan for Sunday’s 2 p.m. show.

“We bought 100 tickets,” says Christine Bediako, 31, a member of SGRho. “The theater only holds 250. At the time we could only purchase 100. The others were already gone.”

Fans are ready to find out what happened to the football star who married his sweetheart; the author who finally got with the right girl; the smooth-talking bad boy who is both loved and hated by all, and the henpecked brainiac who ditched a high-maintenance lady for a student moonlighting as a stripper. When this crew gets back together for a Christmas reunion weekend, who knows what will happen?

“You have people with unrequited love, you have diversity of characters and the wedding setting, and I think that’s what made it specifically cultural for the African-American audience,” says Lee, a down-to-earth director who does this interview while shopping at Target. “It was special to us. Truthfully, what I wanted was to make a classic movie that would stand the test of time. And now it’s in the top ten for all African Americans. It’s very gratifying to know that we struck the right chord. That’s a testament to the script, and a lot of it also has to do with who we cast.”

Lee refers to a long list of popular actors — affectionatelychristened “the Black Pack” by Ebony magazine — including Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan. (Not that launching the sequel was easy. Rumor has it that once the actors were on board, some of them started making demands about money. To that, Lee says: “Once the reps got involved it become a little difficult, but that’s par for the course. They all did it for very little and, it really wasn’t about the money.”)

Lathan sees the characters and their experiences as universal. “Audiences of all races can recognize themselves in them or at the very least someone they know,” she says. “Also, the chemistry that comes across on screen is palpable because we really have that chemistry amongst ourselves in real life. We’ve stayed friends throughout the years.”

Advance ticket sales are rating high.

“Clearly, this is a social phenomenon where moviegoers have been planning for weeks in advance. They’re guaranteeing their seats because they know it’s going to be sold out on opening weekend,” says Harry Medved, a Fandango spokesman. “This is definitely one of [our] top sellers of the year. “

Fandango polling found that 73 percent of advance ticket buyers had seen the original film three times or more and 40 percent will see the sequel with four or more friends. Experts say they haven’t seen this kind of anticipation for a romantic film since “Sex and the City.”

“If we could’ve bought more tickets, we would have,” says Bediako of her sororal outing. “It’s a bonding event for us. It was so great the first time around.”

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