How Christmas Movies Explain Hollywood History

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The New Christmas Canon: A Christmas Prince, The Christmas Chronicles, Klaus, Noelle, Godmothered

Streaming is taking over, and with it a new generation of Christmas films. Since each streamer wants to be the home of Christmas films, they have launched their own original Christmas films, like Klaus (on Netflix) or Noelle (on Disney+).

The streamers also fight for the rights to classics. As of this writing, Prime Video has It’s a Wonderful Life, Netflix has How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), and Apple TV+ secured the rights to A Charlie Brown Christmas. Expect these films to switch homes many times over the coming years, whenever their rights deals expire. Disney has the motherlode of Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, Nightmare Before Christmas, Muppet’s Christmas Carol and The Santa Clause. Not to mention all their Mickey and Princess related films and specials.

The key question is what happens next. Will streaming usher in a new boom in spending on Christmas films akin to the home entertainment era? Or will it be sparse like the rise of cable Hallmark films?

Maybe both. Long term, while streaming is buzzy, it loses money. Lots of money. At the peak of the studio system, theaters, home entertainment and cable revenue were all booming simultaneously. Streaming threatens to disrupt all that, but at a much lower price for customers. That lost revenue means less money to produce new content. Meaning we’re more likely to get more A Christmas Prince-type films from Netflix than The Christmas Chronicles.

Yet, we’re probably in the middle of a boom. Christmas is a key time of year for the streamers. It’s the last chance for most of them to acquire new subscribers before the year ends. Moreover, as customers buy new devices, the streamers want buzzy programming to bring them in. Netflix is spending billions and Disney, Amazon and Apple all plan to match that.

So maybe it is a wonderful life…for Christmas movies.

The Entertainment Strategy Guy writes under this pseudonym at his eponymous website. A former exec at a streaming company, he prefers writing to sending emails/attending meetings, so he launched his own website. Sign up for his newsletter at Substack for regular thoughts and analysis on the business, strategy and economics of the media and entertainment industry.

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