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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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It's more like the christian war on sanity. You people need to keep it to yourselves.

Some day, people are going to realize that not celebrating Christmas is not the same as attacking it. Some day, people are going to realize that others believe things not in defiance, but in mere preference. Till then, Mister Zeitchik, do be careful bearing that cross.

That's obviously because Hollywood has forgotten how to do quality Holiday Movies. Home Alone (and even Home Alone 2) The Santa Claus, are some of the best modern day holiday movies of all time. What hollywood has done is become lazy, and has stopped trying to figure out a way to make a real hit. Not cheap knee slapping comedies that are bound to flop. But to make the public appreciate the most "Wonderful Time of the Year"

I would go with financial motives for lack of Christmas movies. How many people saw the past Holiday-themed films? I certainly had no desire whatsoever to do so, as none sounded any good at all!

And even then -- something the article misses -- how much did those movies have to do with the Christian theme of the holiday?

But how much has changed over the years?

Charlie Brown went on a search for the meaning of Christmas in 1965, to be saved at the last moment by Linus. And part of that theme still resounds today, as movies strive to carve out "meaning" for Christmas, though missing the mark more often than not. Fortunately, we still have Charlie Brown, year after year, a search we're all on, and Linus to remind us what the true meaning of Christmas really is. Santa, gifts and family are all wonderful and fun, but Christ's birth being at the core is where the real magic of Christmas comes from.

If Hollywood acknowledged that, maybe they would have a success on their hands: heck, at the very least, it would be a new direction for them!


The two greatest Christmas films of all time are “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” Miracle on 34th Street was remade but no producer even Spielberg would ever attempt to remake “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Now a script has hit the Hollywood Streets that can only be described, as “It’s a Wonderful Life on 34th Street” a story Charles Dickens would be proud of. Santa could have been Clarence whilst Jim, could easily have been George and the question in the belief of Santa is evident; Yes! The ingredients to make another Christmas Classic to equal the Christmas Masterpieces are featured in this film. The film is set in today’s climate of uncertainty where family morals are at their lowest. Jim the main character whose life had always been on a crest of a wave now faces the biggest challenge of his life failure. He had received the greatest gift a man could receive a family but he was about to throw it all away. The innocence of a child his daughter and her belief in Santa Claus knew she had the answer and she secretly posted a letter up the chimney asking Santa to return her wayward father believing as all children do, that her present will be delivered. This movie asks the greatest question of all time “Do You Believe in Santa Claus” On leaving the Cinema the question will be answered.

Considering how Hollywood almost always screws up good things anymore, perhaps we should be grateful that they're no longer doing Christmas movies. Do we really want Critical Theory-based movies on the birth of Jesus or Santa Claus? Pass, thanks. I'll keep my copies of great Christmas movies past until Hollywood has proven that they can do it right again.

How many Christmas movies do you need to be happy? there are only so many times you can tell the same story...maybe Hollywood realized it's been done, and moved on to other projects...

Oh course there's a war on Christmas. 70% of the nation would still like to simply say "Merry Christmas!" but handwringing, politically correct, wimps around the nation demand that it be called "Xmas" or the soulless "Happy Holidays!"

How utterly lame.

We are destroying all our vibrant traditions in this great nation and replacing them with pabulum and banality.

I hate it.

The first war on Christmas in America was begun by the Puritans, who did not celebrate the day, nor did they appreciate their fellow non-Puritan Mayflower passengers celebrating it. So I have always been mystified by this idea of a "war on Christmas." It may make good head lines and soundbites, but it does not make any sense.

For my money, the best Christmas film ever is "A Christmas Story." And I hope no clown ever tries to remake it.

Alice Dee=typical liberal.

Christianity is not about 'keeping it to oneself' or a 'personal thing'... Just as Atheism must constantly promote it's belief system,.

I am not sure you are right... there have been christmas specials and christmas cartoon movies and cabel has had all kinds of christmas everything. Seems Polar Express which is a movie was on. you have seriously not found any hollywood christmas stuff?

Going to the movies has gotten very expensive. For that kind of money, I don't want to watch a movie about a holiday that I am going to be celebrating with my family. For that kind of money, I don't want to watch a movie that would be just as enjoyable at home. I want some kind of wham!bam!wow! that can only be experienced in a darkened theater with amazing sound and a giant screen.

There's a rather simple reasoning a to why Christmas doesn't make too many compelling movies an an annul bases let alone collectively, and that's due to the event being weak from a narrative perspective itself and building a story around the subject has already been explored as far as it can go.

Let's take a minute to consider the traditional Christmas story, more specifically the birth of Christ, from a literary perspective, frankly there isn't much worth while in there. The plot is entirely driven by destiny and fate, the characters themselves aren't exactly compelling or richly interesting which is only further compounded by the whole acting without choice part, and there's the overall lack of danger or threat given the whole, under the protection of divine power aspect. So with all that in mind that story doesn't really sell well nor compel anyone outside that core audience to invest into it.

Now moving to movies centering around Christmas, these being your Wonderful Life & 34th street etc. While there's compelling interesting movies to be made about people, their relationships to their families, their problems and demons building on top of their shoulders. There's a fair amount of wiggle room to build a strong narrative, but at what point are you not just ripping off everything that's been previously built. Creatively speaking its not impossible to create an new IP in the spirit of what are held as classic Christmas films, but you have to admit it be extremely hard to pull off given the already well filled niche genre.

At the end of all this it just comes down to Christmas doesn't have the compelling qualities to build a fantastic story, and trying to build a story around the subject is equivocal to tossing a message in a bottle into a churning sea composed entirely of messages in bottles.

And one last thing so I can have the personal pride of ranting across an internet comment board in the middle of the day. Let it be known and known wide and well, there is no "war on Christmas", each year consumerism rises greater than the year before, each year you will see no less then 100,000 Santa hats, each year millions of people will flock to their churches of Christ and say their prayers. As callused as it is to say get over your own paranoid psychosis, come down off the cross, use the wood to build a bridge and get over this.

There are also no Hanukkah movies, or race car movies, or serial killer movies, or vampire movies, or movies about 'journalists' who write silly articles just so they can use the headline, 'Is Hollywood Mounting A War On Christmas.'

What a needlessly povocative headline. How about we enjoy the fact that Hollywood is NOT rehashing the same trite themes this year? Don't we always complain about that otherwise? Aren't these holiday films usually mediocre films dressed up in a red suit?

Speaking of complaints, don't complain to me about "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas." Demanding people say anything because of how YOU feel about it is demanding they be PC, so give that hypocrisy a rest.

Wow. This writer mentions three 2006 Christmas movies, including the remake of Black Christmas, but deliberately ignores "The Nativity Story", also 2006, starring Oscar nominees Keisha Castle-Hughes and Shohreh Aghdashloo. Wow. How incredibly ignorant this writer is.

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

WOW. The complete lack of self awareness here is kind of frightening.

According to people like "Alice Dee", a Christian or a buddhist should be able to go to the middle east and demand the muslims or Jews not to prominently mention "Ramadan" or "Yom Kippur" in TV, radio, or place of business because they somehow need to feel included. It's ridiculous.

The "war on Christmas" is waged by a certain fringe of the left who are obsessed with the notion of equality to the point of diluting or whitewashing the dominant culture so the more obscure can achieve more representation by default. These are the people who get pissed that American students would dare bring an American flag to school in Cinco de Mayo or that Kwanza isn't equally celebrated in films or whatnot.

It's ok for Americans to celebrate Christmas in a nation that has deep judeo Christian roots, liberals. People all over the world privilege their own customs and holidays over others.

This article is sensationalist trash.

Simple answer to your supposed question: No.

Well, it's like this... either it's about money and the studios right not to produce them... or it's about this mythical culture war, the demand is really there, and the studios are creating a wonderful opportunity for independent Christian filmmakers to make a bundle...

So... what's the problem????


Perfectly stated.

Thanks for fueling the Bill O'Reilly fire!

Who's been stopped from celebrating Christmas, XM? The reality is, the "war on Christmas" is waged by right-wing demagogues and fed to certain fringe Christians. Obsessed with persecution and frightened by growing minority populations, they try to marginalize any respect to other cultures as disrespectful to their own. These are the people who get pissed when someone says "Happy Holidays" or asks to put another symbol next to the Christmas tree.

It's ok for Americans to recognize other holidays in a nation that is a melting pot for other cultures, ye perpetually offended.

Help! Panic!!!

War on Christmas? Drop dead??? Santa Claus represents the Chrsitmas spirit? Almost all Christmas-related movies have as much to do with the spirit of Christmas as do holiday sales at shopping malls. Movie industries are motivated by profits, as are most businesses. If people were willing to pay to see Christmas movies, there would be more. People want spectacular special effects now. The actual story is largely irrelevant. You can see lots of Chrsitmas films on television. Pay $10 for a dumb movie because the story has to do with Chrsitmas? I don't think so.

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