Hallmark Channel is getting into the holiday spirit — of Hanukkah

Hallmark Channel is getting into the holiday spirit — of Hanukkah

Hallmark Channel Christmas movies have become a cultural institution, generating both good cheer and big ratings for the network.

Now, the franchise is expanding to encompass Hanukkah.

The first two Hallmark movies built around Hanukkah-themed plots, “Holiday Date” and “Double Holiday,” will premiere next month to coincide with the Jewish holiday, which starts Dec. 22 this year.

“Our audience is very vocal, and they tell us when they’d like to see more of something,” says Michelle Vicary, Crown Media’s executive vice president of programming. “We’ve heard over the years that they would like to see [a Hanukkah movie] if a script came in that we liked. And that happened this year — twice.”

Hallmark’s annual “Countdown to Christmas” holiday movie schedule, now in its 10th year, snared a whopping 85 million viewers in total last year from Oct. 25-Jan. 1, according to Vicary. This year’s 40-film schedule kicked off Oct. 25 with “A Merry Christmas Match.””Picture a Perfect Christmas” and “The Mistletoe Secret,” which aired last weekend, both averaged a healthy 3 million viewers.

“We take pitches for all kinds of movies,” says Vicary. “We talked about being purposeful this year and making sure that of the hundreds — if not thousands — of pitches we get for the holiday season, that we would look to have Hanukkah included if we could find the right story. Because that’s the first decision point. We thought these two are in line with what we do and what our audience is looking for.”

Ava Grace Cooper, Peter Benson, Bruce Boxleitner, Anna Van Hooft and Teryl Rothe in
Ava Grace Cooper, Peter Benson, Bruce Boxleitner, Anna Van Hooft and Teryl Rothe in “Holiday Date.”Allister Foster

“Holiday Date,” starring Hallmark veteran Brittany Bristow (“Love, Romance, and Chocolate”) and Matt Cohen (“General Hospital”), airs Dec 14 (8 p.m.) and follows Brooke (Bristow), a woman who undergoes a breakup shortly before a trip to introduce her boyfriend to her family for Christmas. She enlists Cohen’s character Joel (who is Jewish) to impersonate her beau — but since he celebrates a different holiday, shenanigans ensue.

“Unfortunately they have not discussed if he knows all the traditions,” says Vicary. “As the family becomes more suspicious whether he knows how to celebrate, our two leads begin to fall for each other.”

Kristoffer Polaha, Carly Pope, Ellen David, Judah Katz, Matthew Stefiuk, Gryffin Hanvelt and Jamie Lauren Harris in
Kristoffer Polaha, Carly Pope, Ellen David, Judah Katz, Matthew Stefiuk, Gryffin Hanvelt and Jamie Lauren Harris in “Double Holiday.”Albert Camicioli

The second Hanukkah movie, “Double Holiday”, airs Dec 22 (8 p.m.) with stars Kristoffer Polaha (“Condor”) and Carly Pope (“Arrow”). It follows Rebecca (Pope), a Jewish woman whose Hanukkah plans are derailed when her boss tasks her with teaming up with her rival (Polaha) to plan their office holiday party together.

“They learn that while the traditions and celebrations are different, the feelings of holiday and celebration and family and togetherness are the same,” says Vicary.

Hallmark has been criticized in the past for its lack of diversity, since its movies have mostly featured straight Caucasian couples celebrating Christmas. Vicary says you can expect to see more inclusivity in the future.

“Celebrating holiday seasons in lots of different ways is important to every family across the United States, and we do our best to bring to light the different traditions and different things that are happening to people in their lives,” she says.

“We think reflecting the US population within our movies is yet another way that people come to us and see a little of themselves in our content. We are taking pitches for all kinds of traditions and all kinds of representation. We look at scripts that are reflective of lots of different demographic or attributes. So I think you can expect to see more.”


Source : Lauren Sarner Link

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