The Holiday Film is a special genre that presents some unique challenges for filmmakers. Every studio wants to make the next Elf or Home Alone — Something that will be returned to year after year. Every film wants to be deemed a “classic”. But what exactly constitutes a “classic” standing? Is there even a market for new holiday films, or are people happy to stick to what they know and love?
Several holiday films have been made in recent years, but none of them are likely to join the ranks of A Christmas Story or Miracle on 34th Street. Holiday films made after 2010 are few and far between. The question becomes, should they risk creating entirely new holiday stories, or just remake one people are familiar with, just with the current hottest actors? We already know there’s a Grinch adaptation starring Benedict Cumberbatch in 2018.
The trouble with new stories is that they have to be original, fill a demand, and actually be good. For instance, there was a time when people weren’t sure how an R Rated Christmas film could be done. Enter Love Actually, a famously out-of-the-box R Rated Christmas movie that was wildly successful and remains a holiday favorite for many people (myself included). Since then there’s only been a handful of attempts at another “adult” holiday film, but all fell too far on the raunchy side and ended up cringe worthy. Most of these fall quickly into obscurity. In case you didn’t know (and I’m sure you didn’t), in 2015 Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt made a Christmas movie called The Night Before, in which they scoured New York City for the holy grail of Christmas Eve parties, known to the locals as the Nutcracka Ball. Ya, this one probably won’t make it into the family movie night rotation.
Just this year, A Bad Moms Christmas opened to pitiful ratings, and the general consensus was funny, but not really something anyone needed. Or wanted for that matter. And therein lies the problem with current Christmas films. The unifying factor between The Santa Clause, Elf, Home Alone, Love Actually, and all your other holiday favorites is that follow the lead set by A Christmas Story and It’s A Wonderful Life — they’re comedies written for the current audience, but with undertones of the kind of hopefulness people devour at Christmastime. They aren’t comedies with some Christmas decorations in the background, they are quintessentially about the holidays told from unique perspectives.
It is certainly possible to create new holiday films that go on to be classics (2003 wasn’t actually that long ago), but in order to do so filmmakers must think about current emotions and desires of the times. Maybe they should make a movie about a couple who fall in love online and then meet face-to-face on Christmas Eve (or maybe don’t do that, but you get what I mean).