If it were up to one reader of the Wall Street Journal, I’d have to give up my man card.
Because I voluntarily chose to watch a Hallmark Christmas movie.
Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal had a front-page story about how popular Hallmark Christmas movies are, and not just among women. Some fans find Hallmark Christmas movies to be amazing, best watched in bulk and worth staying up all night for. Some say a steady routine of Hallmark Christmas movies is part of self-care, a bit like meditation.
Crown Media Family Networks, a subsidiary of the greeting-card maker, is the company behind more than 150 original Christmas movies that have run on its Hallmark-branded channels over the past decade. There were 22 new ones airing on the main Hallmark channel this year—they started Oct. 27—and another 15 new ones on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries.
According to the Journal article, and the accompanying comments, similar events unfold in many of the movies:
- hot chocolate
- baked Christmas cookies.
- a town Christmas festival that stresses out the planners.
- the two leads fall in love while relishing in the spirit of Christmas.
- a big-city girl who goes to the country and finds a fiancé.
- leading lady and new guy pick out a Christmas tree together and decorate it.
- there’s always some misunderstanding or complication about 1 hour and 43 minutes into every one of these movies – half of an overheard phone call, that new job that has to start right before the big Christmas hayride – that threatens to keep the couple apart.
- the couple kiss for the first time at the one-hour 59 minutes point
- dead mother (sometimes both parents are dead)
- city professional woman with project deadline and aspirations of a promotion is sidetracked to small town for Christmas, she meets the right guy in the small town, who owns a small business and works with his hands and is good with kids.
Here’s what Michelle Vicary, Hallmark’s head of programming, has to say: “It’s really about celebrating the holiday, not just making it a backdrop. This is the time of year when people really want to feel good, feel like part of a community and part of the holiday season. When you spend two hours with us and watch an original movie, when you’re done, you feel better about yourself and the world.”
Brad Krevoy, a producer who has worked on theatrical movies such as “Dumb and Dumber” and “Threesome,” notes that “Their movies are as comforting as programming can be. You can grab a blanket, enjoy a glass of wine, and know the movie will have a happy ending,”
Here’s the trailer:
After I watched the movie, I went back to the list above to see if this movie had any of the common plot lines:
- snow YES
- hot chocolate – YES
- baked Christmas cookies. – YES
- a town Christmas festival that stresses out the planners. INSTEAD OF A CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL, THERE IS A CHRISTMAS EVE WEDDING
- the two leads fall in love while relishing in the spirit of Christmas. YES
- a big-city girl who goes to the country and finds a fiancé. REVERSED; FAMOUS MALE ACTOR COMES TO SMALL TOWN
- leading lady and new guy pick out a Christmas tree together and decorate it. YES
- there’s always some misunderstanding or complication about 1 hour and 43 minutes into every one of these movies – that threatens to keep the couple apart. YES
- the couple kiss for the first time at the one-hour 59 minutes point YES
- dead mother (sometimes both parents are dead) YES, FAMOUS ACTOR LOST HIS PARENTS AT YOUNG AGE
- city professional woman with project deadline and aspirations of a promotion is sidetracked to small town for Christmas, she meets the right guy in the small town, who owns a small business and works with his hands and is good with kids. SOMEWHAT REVERSED; FAMOUS ACTOR IS PRESSURED TO DO MOVIE SEQUEL BUT GOES TO SMALL TOWN FOR HIS SISTER’S WEDDING. MEETS A WOMAN WHO RUNS A WEDDING DRESS SHOP IN TOWN; TOUCHING SCENE WITH MALE ACTOR AND A YOUNG CHILD.
The movie also had some other classic Christmas events not noted above:
- strolling carolers
- Santa arriving on a sleigh
- lighting of the town Christmas tree
I found the movie to be a nice way to spend 90 minutes, but as noted at the beginning, at least one WSJ commenter might question my manhood:
Any guy who watches these movies on his own time of his own volition needs to immediately surrender his man card. Just one Hallmark Christmas Special willingly watched, without the prospect that doing so might help things along with a significant other, is sufficient to negate a whole lifetime of watching Pittsburgh Steelers football games.
But what can I say, I’m an emotional guy, easily brought to tears. I enjoyed the movie, and would gladly watch another one. In fact, I was so fascinated by the whole Hallmark Christmas movie juggernaut that I decided to spend some time doing research on the phenomenon.
Here are some fun facts I came across:
- Hallmark movies often film in and around Vancouver, Canada, because of tax incentives.
- they usually film Hallmark Christmas movies in the summer, and production crews use trucks full of ice and white drapes to make the sets look wintery.
- each movie costs about $2 million to make, and movie shoots are fast (about three weeks), with some filming just a month before they hit television screens.
- snow cannot be a central plotline
The original cable Christmas movie wasn’t Hallmark’s baby. Rather in the mid-1990s, ABC Family kicked off the craze with its “25 Days of Christmas” franchise. But around 2011, as ABC Family (now called Freeform) leaned into targeting teens, Hallmark went after Christmas in a bigger way. And the rest is history.
Hallmark Channel president and CEO Bill Abbot stated that his “biggest challenge is finding good scripts and good writers.” To help, the company has launched a book division that will serve as something of a farm team for future movies.
So maybe a Hallmark Christmas movie script could be an outlet for my writing. It follows a formula, and I like formulas.
Maybe I could use this SNL skit as a starting point: