Netflix has been making more Christmas movies every year and most of these holiday films follow a successful strategy that Hallmark perfected.
Hallmark Channel Christmas movies have been an annual phenomenon for a while, but Netflix recently started capitalizing on the feel-good genre that Hallmark invented by making their own flicks in the same style. Every year, Hallmark churns out dozens of these formulaic movies, which, with few exceptions, are set at Christmastime and feature a young couple falling in love. Add in one of maybe ten basic plot variations, a pun-based title (e.g. Fir Crazy, Christmas Under Wraps, Window Wonderland), strictly wholesome content, and you’ve got a fairly standard Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. These oversentimental Hallmark films are designed to not challenge or upset their viewers, who suspend disbelief to enter a reality where tragedies only happen in the past and the emotional balance is always maintained in favor of romance and holiday cheer.
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Netflix is ramping up their production of movies that feel eerily familiar to any fan of Hallmark’s holiday films. The Knight Before Christmas, A Christmas Prince, Operation Christmas Drop, The Princess Switch, and The Christmas Calendar follow the formula that Hallmark popularized, with conceited fiancés, mistaken identities, and begrudging coworkers galore. But the films have another thing in common with Hallmark’s trope-filled Christmas movies: terrible reviews. Much of the criticism lobbed in their direction is deserved. At best, the acting is passable and the script is believable. More commonly, the films have clunky dialogue, trite stories, and characters who do not behave like humans. That said, most viewers are fully aware of how clichéd Hallmark Christmas films are – and just as many fans hate-watch the movies to mock their corniness as those who genuinely love the films because of it.
But why would Netflix want to make their own versions of these mass-market movies that are regularly lampooned in reviews? The most likely answer almost goes without saying: money and viewers. Despite their poor critical reception and repetitive nature, Hallmark Christmas movies are extremely popular with audiences, which is precisely why they continue being made. No one is insisting these mediocre movies are great cinematic achievements, but they are an escape from reality, which is clearly needed from time to time. And that’s why you can probably expect to see more films like Operation Christmas Drop on Netflix in the future.
Given the yearning for lightweight escapism with a little disposable holiday magic, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, then, that these Hallmark movies are as popular as they are. The numbers suggest something even more impressive. In 2017, the Hallmark Channel brought in an estimated $390 million in ad revenue. Countdown to Christmas – the annual event during which a new Hallmark Christmas movie debuts nearly every day in November and December – comprises a significant portion of Hallmark’s profit. The event draws roughly 80 million viewers each year, which is slightly more than some of Netflix’s top shows like The Witcher or The Crown.
However, Netflix’s hit shows and Hallmark’s Christmas movies differ wildly on budget and production. The budget for an average Hallmark Christmas film is under $2 million. By contrast, The Witcher and The Crown rank among the most expensive shows ever made, costing an average of $10 million per episode. Even if Hallmark makes twenty or thirty of these movies in a single year (which they do), the total production budget still pales in comparison to a hit TV show or popular franchise film. Hallmark quickly slashes costs by hiring less expensive talent, filming year-round in the same relatively inexpensive locations, and reusing as much as they possibly can between films.
Hallmark’s strategy of producing at a high volume while cutting costs and making concessions on quality appears to be working for Netflix, too. Operation Christmas Drop debuted recently on November 5 and has already hit Netflix’s top ten. And though the production quality seems a bit higher than most Hallmark movies, there aren’t any special effects or actors in Operation Christmas Drop that would have rung up a total cost anywhere near a single episode of The Crown. Considering that Operation Christmas Drop is likely pulling in a number of viewers equal to or greater than The Crown, we can reasonably expect Hallmark-style Christmas films on Netflix for years to come.
Next: What To Expect From Operation Christmas Drop 2
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