Countdown to the Holidays on a Screen Near You

By Gilbert Galvan  | 

It’s no surprise the holidays are looking different this year, as fewer of us plan to travel and shopping for Hanukah and Christmas has largely moved from in-store to e-commerce. Still, one festive standby won’t be changing. When it comes to marathon airings of holiday movies and shows, TV networks plan to deliver. Here’s a peek at where to tune in, and how pandemic twists will put a new spin on favorite offerings.

AMC counts December as its “top-performing month,” aka their “Super Bowl equivalent,” thanks to the “Best Christmas Ever” programming event that debuted in 2008. Since then, ratings have increased 39 percent for total viewers and 79 percent in adults 25-54 years old. This year, the network will play a whopping 835 hours of holiday classic and family-favorite flicks, including hits like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Love Actually and The Polar Express. The fun got underway November 2, over three weeks prior to Thanksgiving, and will continue without interruption until Christmas Day. As a first, this year AMC also partnered with exclusive sponsor Pepsi on all non-linear airings of Elf, which ranks as its most-watched holiday movie on digital platforms. Streaming won’t be overlooked, since AMC+ is offering its own series of festive specials, including a Christmas horrors collection featuring cult hits Deadly Games and Christmas Evil, among others.

The Hallmark Channel and its sister network, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, started ringing in the cheer even earlier, going full Christmas on October 23, more than a week before Halloween. Despite Covid-related production delays, the network will deliver 40 original flicks, more than any previous year. Those familiar with Hallmark faces and themes will recognize actors Candace Cameron Bure, Lacey Chabert and Alicia Witt starring in tales of charitable giving, time travel and star-crossed romance. New plot lines also promise more diversity. Case in point: Christmas House tells the story of a gay couple trying to adopt a child.

Not to be outdone, Lifetime likewise kicked off its annual film fest the same day as Hallmark. Called “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime,” the 2020 Christmas slate boasts 30 new movies that debut on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at 8 p.m. Inclusive plots include an LGBTQ romance in The Christmas Setup and a disabled lead actor starring in Christmas Ever After. To complement their programming this year, the cable network created “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime: Live!” The series of four virtual events lets fans engage with stars from favorite movies, watch sneak peeks of upcoming releases and enjoy product integrations by brands.

Freeform’s lineup is called “Kickoff to Christmas,” and it premiered November 1 with a screening of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial—arguably an unusual Yuletide choice. Subsequent offerings like Frozen and The Santa Claus feel perhaps more in line with the

Gilbert Galvan
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