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COLUMN: A holiday movie checklist

Some filmmakers have been pushing the limits of the holiday movie genre
Crews were in Summerland in October 2020 to film The Angel Tree, a Hallmark movie. Crews set up portions of Victoria Road North as well as the lot behind 10124 Main Street for outdoor scenes. Holiday decorations and artificial snow were used to create the setting. (Summerland Review file photo)

It’s the start of the festive season, and that means it’s time for an array of made-for-television romantic comedies with holiday themes.

There is no shortage of these movies and each year, new titles are added. Many are filmed in Canada, especially in British Columbia. Summerland has been used as the setting for several of these movies, as have other communities.

However, not all holiday movies are equal. In some cases, filmmakers have chosen to play it safe, but others have been pushing the limits of this film genre.

If the latest holiday movie selection seems a bit daunting, here is a checklist to use while watching. The scores are based on the degree of risk or innovation in various categories.


0 points: A small town in a U.S. location with cold weather and snow

5 points: A major U.S. city

10 points: Southern Florida, Arizona, southern California or Hawaii

20 points: Europe, Australia or New Zealand

30 points: Asia, Africa or South America

50 points: Any Canadian location, featuring Canadian customs and traditions


0 points: Winter-themed family activities such as carolling, tree decorating, baking cookies, snow activities, holiday dinner, etc.

10 points: Community events such as markets, talent shows or gingerbread house contests

20 points: Religious activities in a place of worship or in the home

30 points: Christmas traditions representing unique ethnic or cultural groups

50 points: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice or Festivus activities and customs


0 points: Both main characters are white, as are most of the supporting cast members

10 points: At least one main character is a member of a visible minority group

20 points: The two main characters are a same-sex couple

30 points: At least one of the main characters has a disability (not a temporary injury)

50 points: The main characters are seniors

Relationships and families

0 points: Both main characters have not been married or are widowed without children

10 points: One or both main characters have been divorced

25 points: One or both main characters have a child or children

50 points: There are messy or uncomfortable dynamics with one or more people in the extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings


0 points: A main character runs a bakery, restaurant, boutique shop, toy store or small inn

10 points: A main character is a musician, teacher, firefighter, social worker or health care worker

20 points: A main character works in a corporate leadership role and remains happy in that role at the end of the story

30 points: A main character works on a factory floor, as a trades worker or as a low-level to mid-level office worker and remains in this role at the end

50 points: Jobs and careers, whether past or present, are not mentioned


Some cliches show up in holiday stories. Subtract 10 points for each of the following:

• Someone says, “This is amazing,” after one bite of a food or one sip of a beverage

• Someone says, “Christmas was always so special when I was young”

• Main characters bake cookies or decorate a tree together

• A business has a Christmas-themed name such as Mistletoe, Jingle Bells or Dasher

• A character has a holiday-themed name such as Rudolph, Holly, Ivy or Carol, or a nickname such as Grinch or Scrooge

• A mysterious character who looks like Santa seems to have some magical powers

• There is an effort to save a small family-run business from a large corporate takeover

• An office professional gives up his or her career to move to a small town

• The story is an adaptation of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

• There is a tree-lighting ceremony

Of course this checklist might not be perfect.

A holiday movie, set in small-town Manitoba and featuring a romance between two seniors with dysfunctional families, celebrating Festivus, would score high points on this checklist, but there’s no guarantee it would be an outstanding production.

In the end, a good movie is a good movie.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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