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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Christmas movie production snowballs to reach new record


Settling down in front of feel-good festive movies has become a modern Christmas tradition – and has driven the production of seasonal films to record-breaking levels this year.

More than 200 new feature films and TV movies with the word “Christmas” in the title are scheduled for release in 2021, according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB).

This figure has more than doubled since 2016, and it is four times higher than in 2011.

Channels and streaming services have discovered that holiday films are big ratings winners.

Christmas movies have been popular for decades, and classics such as Home Alone, Love Actually, and It’s A Wonderful Life will be widely seen again in the coming weeks.

However, the rise of a new breed of holiday films can be traced back to the Hallmark US cable channel’s decision in 2009 to launch a special season of TV movies.

Its inaugural Countdown To Christmas featured four original productions and drew record crowds.

This year’s countdown began even earlier, on October 22, with a record 42 original holiday films.

Boyfriends Of Christmas Past is one of Hallmark’s 42 original festive films this year

“They bet big on Christmas, and everyone else seemed to notice the ratings,” says Brandon Gray, co-host of the Deck the Hallmark podcast and one of the authors of I’ll Be Home for Christmas Movies.

Channel rivalry Lifetime was among those who took notice, and this year it produced 35 of its own Christmas crowd-pleasers, which is also the most it has produced in a single year.

Streaming platforms are also capitalising on seasonal demand, with Netflix releasing a dozen original films starring celebrities such as John Cleese, Kelsey Grammar, and Brooke Shields.

The IMDB figures only include films with the word “Christmas” in the title, implying that the true number of festive films is even higher.

Silent Night, starring Keira Knightley, and Aml Ameen’s Boxing Day, starring Leigh-Anne Pinnock of Little Mix, are two of the season’s big box office releases.

Scroll down for more information on some of this year’s new releases.

Many made-for-TV movies are low-budget and use a feel-good formula to tell stories of romance and family – and are cosy and comforting enough to compensate for being corny and cheesy.

“It’s this magical season when it doesn’t matter what’s on the screen as long as there’s a bunch of Christmas trees in the background and it’s snowing,” Gray says.

“For viewers, it’s just a way to escape and feel this little bit of peace in the midst of the craziness of the holiday season and the craziness of the world in which we have lived in the last couple years for at least two hours.”

Successful formula

Gray claims that Hallmark built its holiday empire on films that look and feel the same.

“They have the same aesthetic because they discovered what works: ‘If we keep everything basically uniform – not too funny, not too sad – people will go from one movie to the next.'”

So you have two people who fall in love, and then there’s a misunderstanding with about 30 minutes to go, and they’ll figure it out and kiss.

“And you do it over and over, and as long as it looks and feels the same, people will watch one after the other.”

Single All The Way is a seasonal same-sex rom-com from Netflix

Gray believes that this year’s crop of films is the best yet, in part because channels like Hallmark are beginning to experiment with that formula.

“I feel the change, especially this year, where they’re putting more emphasis on different types of stories,” he says. “They’re working hard on inclusion and making sure that the stories being told match what’s on the screen.”

“So it’s no longer just them putting a person of colour on screen in a white world; they’re telling stories that feel authentic to who you’re watching on screen.”

In the United Kingdom, some of those TV movies have been airing on the Great! Movies Christmas channel since September 23rd, and on Channel 5 during the day since early November.

12 new films of Christmas:

  • A Boy Called Christmas – Dame Maggie Smith and Jim Broadbent are in the adaptation of author Matt Haig’s Father Christmas origin story (in cinemas and on Sky Cinema/Now in UK, Netflix in US)
  • A Castle For Christmas – Brooke Shields plays an American author who follows family roots to a Scottish castle and its resident hard-up duke (Netflix)
  • Last Train To Christmas – Michael Sheen plays a man who travels through time when he moves through train carriages on Christmas Eve (Sky Cinema/Now in UK)
  • Next Stop, Christmas – This year’s second Christmas time-travelling train film features Back To The Future’s Christopher Lloyd (Great! Movies Christmas in UK, Hallmark in US)
  • Single All The Way – A same-sex Christmas rom-com about a guy who is always single when he goes home for Christmas (Netflix)
  • Boxing Day – An author introduces his American fiancée to his family in the first British Christmas rom-com led by an all-black cast (in cinemas in UK)
  • Silent Night – A dark comedy in which Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode host Christmas as the apocalypse approaches (in cinemas and on-demand stores in UK, on AMC+ in US)
  • Boyfriends Of Christmas Past – A marketing executive is visited by the ghosts of four former boyfriends (Channel 5 in UK, Hallmark in US)
  • Father Christmas Is Back – John Cleese, Kelsey Grammar and Liz Hurley star in an almost unwatchably over-the-top family tale in a Yorkshire stately home (Netflix)
  • Home Sweet Home Alone – The sixth Home Alone film is essentially a remake of the original (Disney+)
  • ‘Twas the Fight Before Christmas – Documentary about a Christmas fanatic who battled his neighbours over his plans for a spectacular festive show in their neighbourhood (Apple TV+)
  • The Bitch Who Stole Christmas – RuPaul and a host of Drag Race stars parody the Hallmark formula (Comedy Central in UK, VH1 in US)
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