Holiday-themed movies are traditionally as much a part of the season as holly and high credit card bills. But not this year. For some reason, says Steven Zeitchik in the Los Angeles Times, "there isn't a single Christmas movie on studios' calendar this December." Not even a dark, anti-Christmas comedy, like another Bad Santa or Christmas with the Kranks. What's going on? Is Hollywood waging a "war on Christmas"? Here, a brief guide:
Are there really no Christmas movies hitting theaters this year?
Well, there was Nutcracker 3-D with Elle Fanning, but that came out in late November, not December. Plus, "it wasn't released by a studio and is a holiday turkey," says Zeitchik in the Los Angeles Times. "About seven people have seen it since it came out two weeks ago." Last year there was the huge, heavily marketed 3D version of A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey. The year before there was Four Christmases, starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, and the year before that was a huge wave of holiday fare. Even when these films are "cringe-worthy," says Chris Hanna in The Concordian, they're a welcome sign of "the official start of the holiday season."
Why aren't they making Christmas movies anymore?
"It's nothing personal — or religious," say Dawn C. Chmielewski and Steven Zeitchik in another Los Angeles Times piece. "It's just business." Profits for holiday films have been in decline since 2006 when a glut of them flooded cinemas. Last year, Robert Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol pulled in just $137 million at the box office. "No one's come up with a fresh way to do a holiday movie, so we're all doing it with other kinds of stories," says Joe Roth, a former Disney executive responsible for holiday hits such as Home Alone and The Santa Clause. DVD sales are another problem. Studios typically postpone a holiday movie's DVD release until the following Christmas, stretching out the waiting period, which is normally just four months, and greatly limiting profits.
What was this big glut in 2006?
A number of holiday films flooded the marketplace that year including Deck the Halls, a comedy with Danny DeVito, The Holiday, a romantic comedy with Kate Winslet and Jack Black, and Black Christmas, a horror film. There were so many holiday themed films that year that Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas opened before Halloween to avoid conflicts.
Just how many Christmas films have there been?
According to the Los Angeles Times, there have been "no fewer" than 57 holiday films since 1938, when MGM release A Christmas Carol. Including that film, there have been six movie versions of Charles Dickens' Christmas classic alone.
Will things be different next year?
Don't count on it. Thus far, there is only one major holiday film on the release schedule for 2011, Arthur Christmas, and it's not even a domestic film. It's British. Bah humbug, indeed.