This Christmas, a lot of people are going to the movies and Hollywood is taking advantage. When did going to the movies on Christmas Day become a big thing among the public? And what were the first movies to open or go wide release on Christmas Day?
Growing up in the 1980s I remember it as something to do when everything else was closed - don’t recall if big releases were tied to the day or not.
I remember going in the late 60s with my brother on Christmas evening. It was crowded, too. I think my parents were happy to get us out of the house.
To be eligible for the Academy Awards a movie has to be a) released to the general public in Los Angeles County b) for at least seven days c) between January 1 and December 31 of a given year.
Here’s all the rules(warning: pdf)
Coincidentally, that means a studio has to open a picture no later than December 25 to be eligible award-eligible. There are probably tax advantages to releasing by December 31, as well.
That means there’s always new product late in December to pull us in, and what better time than Christmas Day, when we’re all off work and dying to get away from out families.
Some older movies that opened on Christmas include To Kill a Mockingbird, The Sting, and what may have been the one that started it all, with no Oscar pretenses, but was just supposed to make money, The Road To Rio, with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in 1947.
I had never heard of it back in the late '80’s when a bunch of kids from my high school all went out to see something (maybe it was Wall Street?). They all said it was something everyone did on Christmas, but my parents had other ideas. Movies, or anything outside the house away from the family, was and still is an abomination.
For a long time, Christmas has been a major time of year for Hollywood’s tentpole releases and Oscar bait films. It predates the rise of the summer blockbuster season by at least several decades since, up until the mid 70s, Hollywood used to write off the summer months.
Even though I was very young at the time, I remember this too. Theaters were closed on Christmas Eve but open Christmas afternoon.
“Write off” or “figure they could show any crap in the summer because the theaters were air conditioned?”
James Whale’s Frankenstein was a Christmas release, so it goes back at least to 1931.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) was a Christmas day release.
Probably a little bit of both (excpet in the case of drive-ins). Until the release of **Jaws **in 1975, the conventional wisdom in Hollywood was people were too busy going on vacation, going to baseball games, and doing outdoor things then going to the movies so they rarely released highly-anticipated big-budget fare during the summer. Also, movie release practices used to be different. Instead of opening on thousands of screensy at once like they do now, movies would often only open on a few screens in a few big cities and then wend their way across the US over the next few months.
What did it cost to print and distribute all of those many prints of a film? I’m assuming the cost was substantial, and that was why the movies wouldn’t open at the same time everywhere, Instead, they could ship prints from the big cities to the mid-sized cities and eventually to the small towns and the second-run theaters.
The “hit-and-run” policy ensures that even crappy pictures will generate appreciable revenue by saturating the market with them. Word-of-mouth guarantees that attendance will plummet within days, and they’ll vanish forever (or wind up in the video bin at Walmart), so it’s best to get them out of the way ASAP while wringing every possible penny out of them.
The most notorious example of this I can think of was Belushi and Aykroyd’s Neighbors, released for Christmas back in 1981.
When I was in high school and college (late 1980s), I had some friends that worked at movie theaters. They typically worked Christmas day, and it was always a busy evening.
All my life, I have known families that had a tradition of going to the movies on Christmas afternoon/evening. It was never tons and tons of people, but a significant amount nonetheless. Keep in mind that in some families, the big get-together is on Christmas Eve. Santa will come Christmas morning, but after that the day is totally free for some families.
I’ve been going to the movies on Christmas Day for as long as I can remember. I’m not Jewish, but I’ve always assumed it was a big day for them to go the movies too.
Others have already pointed out stuff much older, but the first time I remember a movie opening on Christmas was Godfather 3. No, I didn’t go see it, I’ve never been to the movies on Christmas. Also at the time I’d never seen the first two.
I would have dragged my p*ssy over 12 miles of broken glass on Christmas Day night to get out of that hell hole of my parents house. I would have gone to see ANY THING , ANYTHING AT ALL, a documentary on animals pooping, or a Star Wars prequel. Anything to get out of that house.
Mr. Sally Barry has said for 30 years, “I would drag my balls over 30 miles of broken glass to avoid ______”. I was fitting his little bon mot to fit my own circumstances :p.
Who the heck is Mr. Sally Barry?
My family wasn’t much into movies anyway, so the idea of a movie on Christmas would never have occurred to my folks.
Fast-forward to the late 90s - my husband and I spent Christmas with his boss and wife, and after dinner, we went to a Star Trek movie that was opening that day. I was amazed at how many people were there (including me - I find the whole Star Trek franchise to be silly.) It was the first and last time I spent any of Christmas in a theater.