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Is Hollywood mounting a war on Christmas?

December 7, 2010 |  8:38 am

Movie studios to Santa: Drop dead.

For now, anyway.

It's hard to know how much is cultural, how much is financial and how much is cyclical. But whatever the reason, there isn't a single Christmas movie on studios' calendar this December.

There are, of course, a number of movies meant to appeal to family audiences: the Jack Black adaptation of "Gulliver's Travels," the latest "Chronicles of Narnia" installment, a "Tron" sequel. But movies having to do with snow, reindeer, Santa or anything else holiday are nowhere to be found.

There isn't even a darkly comic anti-Christmas movie, like a "Bad Santa" or "Christmas with the Kranks." (The lone Christmas release of any kind, Elle Fanning's "Nutcracker in 3-D," wasn't released by a studio and is a holiday turkey; about seven people have seen it since it came out two weeks ago.)

Things don't change much next year, either. There's only one major holiday release scheduled for 2011, the animated movie "Arthur Christmas" -- and that comes from the U.K.

As my colleague Dawn Chmielewski and I explore in a story in Tuesday's Times, there are plenty of explanations for the trend. Studios don't usually take sides in culture-wars debates. They do, however, pay attention to the shifting winds. And as Joe Roth, the former Disney executive who once shepherded holiday hits like "Home Alone" and "Santa Clause," says, holiday pictures just aren't where the creative or monetary Zeitgeist is circa 2010.

"The way to do a big-budget film these days is to take stories that everyone in the world knows and take them in a new direction,"  Roth told us. "But 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." (Roth is doing just that with "Snow White" and "The Wizard of Oz.")

In past years there have been scads of movies playing off the holidays. In fact, as recently as 2006 we had a sack full of them, from a Danny DeVito comedy ("Deck the Halls") to a Nancy Meyers heartwarmer ("The Holiday"), to a horror movie ("Black Christmas").  That glut has turned, just four years later, into a scarcity. (Whether any of the '06 movies were any good is another matter.)

But don't be quick to blame Hollywood. Most of the movies from that fertile year of 2006 flopped. So right now, Hollywood executives' assumption is that Americans would rather come to theaters to see stories about pretty much anything other than Christmas. Are they right?

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Billy Bob Thonrton in "Bad Santa." Credit: Dimension Films


Christmas movies: Is Hollywood playing Scrooge?

Comments () | Archives (50)

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Maybe everyone is just weary of the whole Santa myth thing. Hollywood has taken the genre as far as it can go -- whether straight down the line or off into directions ranging from amusing to weird.

How many kids nowadays ever fall for the Santa thing? It seems that with each passing year kids at younger and younger ages realize that Santa is actually the credit card in Mom or Dad's wallet -- and they direct their gift requests accordingly.

I, for one, am not sorry to see this myth fade away. For a long time now Santa was nothing more than a marketing tool. If he disappears, the world's merchants will find another vehicle with which to peddle their stuff.

Of course studios have taken sides in the culture war. Any American with a brain knows that.

It's not a very profitable stance to take, but liberals care more about advancing their agenda.

My only complaint is from advertisers who try to shove as many commercials down your throat as they can. In ANY economy, it just seems wrong to spend like everyone is expected to do. I was raised in a catholic home and it would literally make my Mom sick because she was supposed to buy for so many.

After the holidays, when the the CC bills start to arrive, it would be refreshing to see a commercial for a debt relief agency explaining that christmas debt is the enemy.

I love all the classic movies about the holidays, but a modern gem is Jodie Foster's HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS.

Is the author really this ignorant? You can't be more Christian themed than the Narnia series. Lewis was the greatest Christian Apologist of the 20th Century.

Uhhhhhh Jews don't do Christmas. Justs the facts.... Neither do Atheists or Marxists... Pretty much wraps up all of Hollywood.

You're day-dreaming if you think Hollywood Studios haven't taken a side in the culture wars. They have. . . and they backed the wrong side . . . and it's becoming increasingly obvious that they've suffered for it. The public is well aware of the contempt with which the lefty Studios hold them and are voting with their feet and their dollars. Movies are irrelevant. I haven't spent a nickel on a movie in five years and don't ever again intend to. The lefties can play to their audience, and with themselves, to their hearts content.

I think the illusion that movies define a holiday or anything else is long past. It's hard to see a film that has anything to do with common ideas that isn't the same as the filmmakers in the next film or hoping another War broke out in Iraq so they could pretend it was the 1970 something.
It's just a sad, dying industry.

Hollywood are certainly missing an opportunity here.

Christmas movies are about the finer things in life - the top of Maslows Hierarchy. The contemplation and focus on these things is what separates civilised society from warring tribes.

Christmas movies remind us of what's important. They make us feel glad to be human - a valuable commodity today. And what is this finer thing? I think this quote from Marianne Williamson puts it best:

"Love isn’t material. It’s energy. It’s the feeling in a room, a situation, a person. Money can’t buy it. Sex doesn’t guarantee it. It has nothing at all to do with the physical world, but it can be expressed here nonetheless. We experience it as kindness, giving, mercy, compassion, peace, joy, acceptance, non-judgement, joining, and intimacy."

Check Out the serialised Christmas Drama It's a Wonderful Life on 34th Street at http://www.merry-christmas-story.com This story is what Hollywood have been looking for. Reading this Christmas Story will fill your heart with Christmas Spirit.

Wow. I don't know where to begin. First off, the Queen Latifah movie you referred to was actually titled "Last Holiday". It was released in mid-January and had little or nothing to do with Christmas.

Secondly, saying 2006 had a glut of holiday films is a real stretch considering they were mostly dark and irreverent. I mean, Black Christmas, really? You consider that holiday fare?

Bottom line, on some deep level, Hollywood despises Christmas and what it stands for. The best they can do these days is offer movies that deface and belittle Christmas.

Family friendly entertainment, overall, does very well, especially during the holidays. But in the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge, they so despise Christmas that they can't bring themselves to produce decent Christmas fare even for an easy profit.

I haven't stepped inside a theater all year. And don't plan to anytime soon.

Who cares if Hollywood ignores the large consumer base that enjoys Christmas movies? It just means they get less money, and therefor have less power. Then when a more Christmas friendly studio comes along, they can enjoy the lack of competition for Christmas movie releases.

Have you forgetten about the Finnish movie, "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale"? This appears to be a rather dark seasonal offering from a decidedly different cultural point of view.

I believe it has a limited opening in LA on December 10th.

These Hollywood types probably have Communist Ornaments on their trees just like Barrack Obama. I heard that last year Obama's family did NOT celebrate Christmas. Well he is the grinch that stole all our money.

The Queen Latifah heart warmer "The Holiday"?
Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Eli Wallach, Jack Black... but no Latifah in this movie. Makes me wonder what else you got wrong.

Disney has a Christmas movie on ABC called Prep & Landing, animated.

Hollywood Christianphobic? Gee, whodathunkit???

"Studios don't usually take sides in culture-wars debates."

ROTFLMAO. Wow, that's some heavy-duty delusionaire right there.

Christmas-themed movies have been getting more and more stupid lately. Hollywood is just putting non-Christmas-themed movies because people have finally realized this fact. Maybe if they would put out movies that were actually really good, maybe people would go to see them.

I don't mind not having "Christmas" movies that really don't have anything to do with what Christmas is really about. I have noticed that the late night talk shows (Leno, Letterman, etc.) don't have any Holiday decorations at all and that really disturbs me because it is one holiday seasson that is about giving and self sacrifice.

Movie Studios are wrong if they think that Christmas isn't something they need. What the studios need is a new Christmas classic. A wonderful life on 34th street is that classic. FInd out more here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rxf0VRmbD5s

I wrote an original Christmas movie script several years ago. I have new ideas for the plot as well but it's a story no one has really told before. Anyone interested??

The fact that there are less Christmas movies coming out probably has something to do with the increasingly leftward tilt of the movie-production business- unpopular movies keep churning out on topics liberals care about (anti-war, anti-business, global warming, etc) yet movies that conservatives care about (pro-war, pro-business, Christian values) are not made because they are 'unpopular'. Idealism does play a role in deciding what gets made and what doesn't.

Everybody in the Industry knows this:

Make a good Christmas Movie and you will live forever.

This article does expose the ONLY reason the anti-Christian film industry ever made any Christmas Christian films at all....so they could reap profits off the exploitation of another person's religion. They hate Christianity with every fiber of thier being...And that makes them the worst kind of hate group alive today.

Anyone who hasn't been living in a cave, or attending Liberty University, knows by now that Christmas is demonstrably, historically, indisputably, emphatically and indubitably NOT a Christian holiday. It started out as a largely secular pagan celebration of the winter solstice. It was the Christians who STOLE IT from the rest of the the world - and then f**ked it up miserably by, among other things, eliminating the orgies.

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