‘Tis the sea­son for more TV Christ­mas movies than ever

The Standard Journal - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ali­cia Ran­cilio

Have you heard the one about the girl who didn’t care about Christ­mas but found her­self in a small town for the hol­i­days sur­rounded by dec­o­ra­tions, cook­ies and car­ol­ers, and found a new boyfriend and her Christ­mas spirit by Dec. 25?

Hall­mark Chan­nel has, and they’re air­ing 22 orig­i­nal movies this year built around plots sim­i­lar to that.

The premise may vary, but the themes are the same and Hall­mark is very OK with that.

“Yes, you can pretty much guar­an­tee that when you meet our two leads in the first 10 min­utes of a Hall­mark movie, it’s guar­an­teed that they will end up to­gether,” said Michelle Vi­cary, the ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of pro­gram­ming and net­work pub­lic­ity for Crown Me­dia and Fam­ily Net­works.

While reg­u­lar net­work prime­time pro­gram­ming tends to take a hia­tus dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son, it’s Hall­mark Chan­nel’s time to shine.

Their hol­i­day movies are so pop­u­lar, they be­gin air­ing Christ­mas movies on Oct. 26 and wrap up on Jan. 1.

“When view­ers kept telling us by virtue of the rat­ings that they wanted more (Christ­mas), it was a nat­u­ral to ex­tend the time that we were pro­gram­ming for them,” said Vi­cary.

Hall­mark sells shirts that say, “All I want to do is drink hot co­coa and watch Hall­mark Chan­nel.”

This year there’s also an app called Count­down to Christ­mas to keep track of the pro­gram­ming on Hall­mark Chan­nel and its sis­ter chan­nel, Hall­mark Movies and Mys­ter­ies (which of­fers more spir­i­tual fare.) There’s an op­tion to set alerts on your phone and add the movie start times to your cal­en­dar.

On launch day, it had 140,000 down­loads.

This year, Hall­mark Chan­nel has films star­ring LeAnn Rimes, Kel­lie Pick­ler and Patti La­Belle, but the net­work also fea­tures re­cur­ring ac­tresses, dubbed the “Christ­mas queens” in­ter­nally by Hall­mark, who front a new movie a sea­son on the net­work: Can­dace Cameron Bure, Lacey Chabert, Dan­ica McKel­lar and Lori Lough­lin. Bure reigns supreme. “For the last three years she has had the No. 1 Christ­mas movie on the Hall­mark Chan­nel with very, very stiff com­pe­ti­tion from Chabert and Lough­lin,” said Vi­cary.

Bure said the re­ac­tion to her Hall­mark Christ­mas movies en­cour­ages her to keep mak­ing them but also find in­ter­est­ing ways to tell sto­ries that fit the for­mula.

“It’s a big deal to de­cide which movie to do,” she said. “The com­pet­i­tive side of me says, ‘Hey, I want to keep top­ping those charts and help­ing the com­pany im­prove and help­ing my num­bers,’” she said. This year’s film, “A Shoe Ad­dict’s Christ­mas,” is based on a novel by best-sell­ing au­thor Beth Har­bi­son.

Lough­lin, who de­vel­oped her own film for Hall­mark this year, ad­mits to also try­ing to push the en­ve­lope a lit­tle bit.

“They def­i­nitely have a for­mula and you do have to fol­low it. If you don’t, they rein you back in. As ac­tors we want a lit­tle bit of drama so you try to put some highs and lows in there, but you can’t ar­gue with (Hall­mark). Their for­mat is 100 per­cent work­ing.”

The big­gest mo­ti­va­tion for re­turn­ing to Hall­mark year af­ter year is the fans, said Bure. She re­called a let­ter from an older man whose wife had passed away af­ter more than 50 years of mar­riage. She loved Christ­mas and would dec­o­rate for the sea­son early, and par­tic­u­larly loved Bure’s Christ­mas movies. He forced him­self to not only keep up his wife’s tra­di­tion of dec­o­rat­ing but also sat down to watch Bure’s movie that year be­cause it’s what they would have done as a cou­ple, and it made him feel closer to her.

“It’s more than rat­ings. It’s more than a cheesy hol­i­day spirit. There’s a deep mean­ing be­hind (these movies) for some peo­ple. I love all of them, and that’s why I keep do­ing them.”

/ AP-Carolyn Kaster

The gin­ger­bread house, show­cas­ing the full ex­panse of the Na­tional Mall is seen in the State Din­ing Room dur­ing the 2018 Christ­mas Press Pre­view at the White House.

/ AP

Ac­tresses Can­dace Cameron Bure (from left), Lori Lough­lin, Dan­ica McKel­lar and Lacey Chabert are all re­cur­ring stars of Hall­mark hol­i­day movies. Hall­mark’s “Count­down to Christ­mas” TV movies are so pop­u­lar, they have an App and sell mer­chan­dise like wine glasses and T-shirts.

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