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Dec 14, 2022

Why People Love Cable's 'Christmas Movies'

It’s that fantastical time of the year called Christmas! A time of magic and tradition. The Christmas specials and movies that are coming out this year aim to capture this wonderful feeling.

But it may be tricker than it looks to hit that holiday sweet spot.

What Do People Look for in a Christmas Movie?

The movies people watch at Christmas generally offer a sense of nostalgia and hope for the future. Winter with its lack of sunshine and its cold air can be dull, dull, dull. We need that Christmas cheer!

Thus, Christmas films attempt to give a cozy familiarity and a sense of wonder that lifts everyone’s moods. But balancing these elements can be difficult.

This struggle is especially true of Hallmark, Lifetime, and Great American Family holiday films.


Why People Love Hallmark Christmas Movies

Hallmark-esque Christmas movies, unfortunately, have a reputation amongst some people as subpar. Yet, these movies are highly successful and draw large audiences each year.

These formulaic movies provide a sense of tradition and of wistful thinking that brings people back. Some people might think they are corny, but even so, they are fun movies.

With so many movies coming out on these channels each year, it seems impossible to make a movie in this market stand out amongst them.

If a story does not stand out, it can lose that magic feeling that Christmas movies need.

Occasionally, a romantic made for streaming or TV movie comes out that is unique, such as the feature film Last Christmas (spoilery summary here).

But Last Christmas does not follow the typically accepted formula that takes place in films on channels such as Hallmark and Lifetime.


In a Hallmark movie, a film cannot be too serious or too funny.

At the Austin Film Festival, screenwriter Holly Hester talked about some of the limitations and tropes of Hallmark-esque films, such as where the first kiss must be placed in the film, and how there is almost always a sleigh-ride scene in the final product.

How Hallmark Changes Things (But Doesn't)

However, I did notice a few ways in which these films are distinct from each other this year.

One way is diversity. The films on this year’s slate of romantic made-for-TV Christmas films seem much more diverse than films in the past.

This opens the films up to exploring the Christmas traditions passed down to people of different heritages, but does not sacrifice that formulaic structure that brings people back to these films.

Merry Textmas (Lifetime), A New Orleans Noel (Lifetime) and Christmas at the Golden Dragon (Hallmark) are just a few films that incorporate diversity.

Another way these films can stand out is by exploring fantastical elements, such as adding in a hint of Christmas “magic” as it allows the film to take unexpected twists, such as The 12 Days of Christmas Eve (Lifetime) and A Magical Christmas Village (Hallmark).

Travel is another example of something which adds uniqueness to a film. Lots of romantic comedy filmmakers are setting their Christmas films in “other locations” such as Switzerland this year.

(Don’t forget to watch the Jodie Sweetin film, Merry Swissmas, on Lifetime.)

Something that struck me is that there are even a few titles that did not focus solely on romance. If this appeals to you, check out My Southern Family Christmas on Hallmark, and Christmas on Candy Cane Lane on Great American Family.

Based on the trends of this year, I believe we’ll see more diversity in casting and more exciting locations next year. I am looking forward to the potential of less romance-focused


How Christmas Movies Capture Nostalgia

Further, each channel has a certain level of family-friendliness that caters to different tastes. For example, Lifetime movies tend to have a touch of cruder humor than Hallmark.

Overall, these films tend to be relatively clean compared to many other films out there, which is appealing to many who crave wholesomeness.

Also, attaching nostalgic celebrities is an important attribute of these films. Many stars from the 1980s to 2000s, which viewers remember from their younger years, are acting in these movies.

In these 2022 films, you’ll be sure to see Candace Cameron Bure (Candace Cameron Bure Presents: A Christmas…Present on Great American Family), Mario Lopez (Steppin’ Into the Holiday on Lifetime), Tamera Mowry-Housley (Inventing the Christmas Prince on Hallmark), and more.

In Conclusion...

When it comes down to it, if one knows the tropes and formulas of these types of films, one can manipulate them to make them unique.

In short, Hallmark, Lifetime, etc. capture the magic and familiarity that people crave during Christmastime.

To some people, these films have a negative connotation, but they are one of the most successful film markets around and bring in a lot of money each year.

It is hard to stand out amongst all the films they produce, but it is possible if one understands the formulas being used and what has been done in the past. If breaking into this area of film, one must and can capture the magic and nostalgia of Christmas.

Image: Adobe Stock

Maggie Orsinger graduated from John Paul the Great Catholic University in 2020 with a degree in Communications Media. She's pursuing an MFA at Pepperdine University for Screenwriting and expects to graduate in 2023. She wrote this while an intern for Family Theater Productions.


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