MORTON — The long-awaited — and well-reviewed — sequel to the 2008 ABBA-karaoke musical "Mamma Mia" opened nationwide Friday and at several Peoria area movie theaters.
Morton Cinemas, however, was not among those theaters.
To the dismay of the managerial staff at the Morton theater, Universal Studios declined to distribute a copy of "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" there on the first week of the movie's run. It will not reach Morton Cinemas until next Friday.
Every other major movie theater in the area received the film Friday, including Morton's two direct competitors in Tazewell County, AMC Classic Sunnyland 10 and New Vision Showplace 14 Pekin. Unlike those movieplexes, Morton Cinemas does not fall under a nationally-branded theater chain and instead is independently owned and operated by VIP Cinemas.
Once the theater caught wind of Universal's plan, its managers attempted to persuade the studio to reconsider. Upon being rebuffed, Morton Cinemas took to its Facebook page Wednesday to announce the omission from this week's schedule, and even tagged the studio's own Facebook page.
"Universal Studios has unilaterally and without negotiation refused to make a copy of the film available to us. We have reasoned, begged and bargained with the studio to no avail," the post read in part.
According to assistant manager Hannah Patton, Morton Cinemas has received every major release it sought in the last year she has worked there. To her knowledge, the best explanation the theater received from the studio was that it "didn't want to do that wide of a release on the first weekend."
Later on in the Facebook post from Wednesday, the theater encouraged its customers to consider waiting a week to see the movie, which box office trackers believe will take the top spot this weekend in a competitive field of films.
The vast majority of comments on the Morton theater's post were from customers declaring their loyalty and saying they would delay catching the movie for a week.
"I was pleasantly surprised to see that," Patton said. "We have loyal customers and a lot of regulars, and we're thankful for that."
Thomas Bruch can be reached at 686-3262 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasBruch.