Hallmark Christmas movies now embracing Hanukkah

"The move follows criticism that their movies lack diversity, focusing on straight Caucasian couples celebrating Christmas," Vicary said.

A giant menorah stands in front of a Christmas tree at the Brandenburg gate to celebrate Hanukkah in Berlin December 16, 2014 (photo credit: REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH)
A giant menorah stands in front of a Christmas tree at the Brandenburg gate to celebrate Hanukkah in Berlin December 16, 2014
Hallmark Christmas movies have become part of the seasonal cheer, and now they are expanding to include Hanukkah, the  New York Post reported.
The two Hanukkah-themed movies - Holiday Date and Double Holiday - will be aired at the end of December to coincide with Hanukkah, which this year starts on December 22.
The move was made due to criticism aimed at Hallmark, claiming that their movies lack diversity, focusing on straight, Caucasian couples celebrating Christmas.
“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.”
Holiday Date, featuring Hallmark veteran Brittany Bristow and Matt Cohen, will be aired on December 14  and follows Brooke (Bristow), a woman who breaks up with her boyfriend just before her trip to introduce him to her family for Christmas. The fun starts when Cohen’s character, Joel, takes her boyfriend's place. The problem is that Joel is Jewish and is celebrating Hanukkah instead of Christmas!
“Unfortunately, they have not discussed if he knows all the traditions,” says Vicary. “As the family becomes more suspicious as to whether he knows how to celebrate it, our two leads begin to fall for each other.”
The other Hanukkah movie, Double Holiday, airs on December 22 features Kristoffer Polaha and Carly Pope. The central character is Rebecca (Pope), a Jewish woman whose Hanukkah plans have to change when her boss requests that she plans the office party together with her office rival (Polaha).
“They learn that while the traditions and celebrations are different, the feelings of holiday and celebration and family and togetherness are the same,” Vicary told the New York Post.
Now in its 10th year, Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas” holiday schedule, had 85 million viewersl last year from October 25-January 1, according to Vicary.
The 2019 40-film schedule started on October 25 with A Merry Christmas Match. Picture a Perfect Christmas and The Mistletoe Secret, which aired was last weekend, averaged three million viewers each.
“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, 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," she said.
“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,” Vicary said, according to the Post.
“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," she said. "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 demographics or attributes. So I think you can expect to see more.”