“The meaning of Christmas” is a question that society has tried to solve for years. Some think Christmas is about family; some, like the Peanuts character Linus, think it’s about the birth of Jesus; and still others think Christmas is purely of economic extraction, a manipulative scheme for big-name corporations to make some money.
Whatever the true meaning may be, there’s no doubt that Christmas is a profitable holiday for businesses all around the world, especially the movie industry. So why aren’t any Christmas movies coming to theaters this December?
In the past, Hollywood has made sure to release at least a few movies centered on a holiday theme each winter. Most of the time, these movies turn out to be quite the auspicious business venture — such as 2003’s smash hit Elf, which grossed over $220,400,000 worldwide.
Christmas is the time of year when people come together to spend money and do things as a family, and movie execs use this to their advantage, churning out kid-friendly Santa flicks like they’re going out of style. But that’s the thing: they are going out of style.
Over the last couple years, Christmas movies have taken a nosedive, both in terms of quality and revenue. A couple examples are 2006’s Deck the Halls — which was widely panned by critics and grossed a pitiful $47,231,070 worldwide — and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, the third — and definitely the worst — of the trilogy that was greeted with a similarly negative response by intelligent humans everywhere. And for once, Hollywood isn’t applying the British motto of “Keep Calm and Carry On” to their works. They know these movies suck, they know we know they suck, and they’re listening.
“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,” says Joe Roth, former Disney executive who helmed such holiday classics as Home Alone and the original The Santa Clause. “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.”
Now, I’m no Scrooge. There’s almost nothing I enjoy more than curling up on the couch and watching a classic Christmas movie while snow gently falls to the ground outside. I wholeheartedly believe that Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year”. That being said, I don’t appreciate this most cherished of holidays being stuffed with over-sentimentality and cheap slapstick humor like a Thanksgiving turkey, and that is exactly what moviemakers have been doing for the better part of a decade.
When Hollywood remembers how to make a film that encapsulates the Christmas spirit without making me feel like I’m getting a root canal, then I will probably be first in line to see the festive fruits of their labor. But until then, I think we should give them time to recharge their creative juices and get truly acquainted with “the meaning of Christmas”. I’d much rather have a year without a Christmas movie than a year with too many.