On Facebook, Arlington Heights mom Holly Connors asked women in her neighborhood if they wanted to see the movie "A Bad Moms Christmas." Within an hour, 40 people had sent her money to buy tickets.
Days later, 150 moms were on board, prompting Connors to reserve an entire theater for the group at AMC Randhurst. They've now exceeded the theater's capacity, and she's started a waiting list.
Similar scenes are playing out across the suburbs this week in anticipation of the R-rated, mom-focused comedy, which premieres Wednesday, Nov. 1.
"A Bad Moms Christmas" is the latest film to draw large groups of suburban moms, just as "Sex and the City," "Fifty Shades of Grey," "Magic Mike" and the original "Bad Moms" did in recent years.
For this film, suburban moms are organizing big "girls night out" events in the coming weeks and, in some cases, reserving entire theaters to watch the movie together. Some of the gatherings double as fundraisers for PTOs or women's charities.
"People have been excited about this movie for months. Right after they released the trailer this summer, people were posting (on Facebook) 'We have to go!'" said Lesley Lehman of Elmhurst, who is seeing the movie with 50 other women from Fit4Mom DuPage County.
Seven local Marcus theaters have already been reserved for the movie, each by a group of 100 or more women, said Marcus Group Account Manager Samantha Mordawski.
The movie -- with a cast that includes Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Westchester native Kathryn Hahn and "This is Us" star Justin Hartley, who grew up in Orland Park -- is about overwhelmed moms trying to create a perfect Christmas for their families while hosting their own mothers in their homes.
The sequel may not win over film critics, but suburban moms say it's about the quality of the company, not the movie.
"You're going to laugh and drink with your friends. That's why you go," Lehman said.
Large-group moviegoing is a relatively new trend among women, helped along by social media which makes invitations easy. It's a modern-day way women socialize, and the gatherings help battle the isolation and lack of socialization that often come with parenting in 2017, said Suzanne Degges-White, a Northern Illinois University professor who studies women's psychology.
"It used to be knitting circles or sewing bees ... women's need for connection is super strong," Degges-White said. "Sometimes that need to bond over something trivial is so strong because life is so difficult. Everything is so intense lately, it feels good to just laugh and unwind."
Movies that show women's empowerment or fantasies -- whether it's speaking your mind at a PTO meeting as the "Bad Moms" do or acting heroically like "Wonder Woman" -- are another part of the escapism, she added.
Suburban moms say group movie outings are practical. Theaters are close to home, tickets are relatively inexpensive, the women can dress casually, and they get a chance to socialize and meet other moms. And unlike home-shopping parties or fundraisers, movie nights don't require buying something you don't need or dragging along bags full of groceries for the food pantry.
"There's no political agenda, it's just fun and easy," Connors said. "When you open it up in such a way, it makes people feel like they're part of a community. They really love it. It's really hyperlocal."
Groups can rent out theaters for a fee (and then get discounted ticket prices). Some studios permit advanced screenings for large groups. A group of 75 women arranged to see "A Bad Moms Christmas" last Wednesday night at Marcus Gurnee Cinema, a full week before its official release.
The Arlington Heights group is starting their Nov. 3 "A Bad Moms Christmas" gathering at a restaurant adjacent to the theater. They're also brainstorming some "surprises."
"More is good sometimes," Connors said.