There’s still snow on the ground, so let’s get Hallmark’s 2019 holiday season underway, shall we?
Yes, Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries already have begun gift-wrapping Christmas movies to air later this year, and EW can exclusively reveal the first three films of the next Yuletide slate.
Kristin Chenoweth and Scott Wolf will star in The Christmas Song, which is slated to debut on Hallmark Channel in November. In the movie, directed by Eric Close (who helmed last year’s Christmas at Graceland), a youth choir director (Chenoweth) needs to write a big song for the Christmas Eve show but “finds herself distracted” when a boy with a golden voice (Kevin Quinn) joins her choir, which will come as news to his widowed father (Wolf).
Meanwhile, Melissa Claire Egan, Marc Blucas, and Patti Murin star in Holiday for Heroes, which premieres on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries in November. The plot revolves around a woman (Egan) and a soldier (Blucas) who exchange letters for a year before their worlds collide.
Hallmark Movies and Mysteries also is planning a Blake Shelton-executive produced Christmas film as part of a development deal with the country star, who served as executive producer of 2018’s HMM movie Time for Me to Come Home for Christmas. This film will center on another emotional homecoming journey around the holidays — and include some of Shelton’s songs — but the film will feature new lead characters.
Given that we’re already talking about these films in February, you’re starting to get the picture: 2019 will prove to be another ambitious one for Hallmark, as Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” campaign celebrates its 10th anniversary. Hallmark continues to dominate the conversation about holiday TV movies, helping to revive the once-stagnating genre of comfort-food flicks that broadcast networks abandoned. Last year, Hallmark Channel and HMM aired a record 37 new Christmas films, which bested 2017’s record of 33 and represented nearly half of all of the new holiday TV movies that debuted on cable networks and streamers such as Lifetime, Freeform, Netflix, and Ion. The two Hallmark networks have debuted 176 original Christmas movies over the last 10 years.
“The tenth year will be the biggest, boldest Christmas in Hallmark Channel history,” Crown Media executive VP of programming Michelle Vicary declares to EW. “Over the ten years, we have endeavored to be the no. 1 holiday destination, and achieved that over the last several years. What was different about last year — and what’s going to be really big about this year — is just how culturally relevant this has become in people’s minds beyond the programming, where we have towns asking if they can decorate themselves like a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, and people having watch parties.”
Hallmark will not only seek to keep the Yuletide spirit alive by airing repeats of its fan-favorite Yuletide movies every Friday night throughout the year, it will debut at least one new Christmas movie in July as part of its Keepsake Christmas campaign, and it will target more weekend nights as the holidays approach. “We’re going to make sure both our networks have more original premieres on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights throughout the holiday season, so we’ll go bigger in that way in 2019,” adds Vicary.
This past holiday season once again brought Nielsen presents for Hallmark: Hallmark Channel reigned as the No. 1 cable network in 4th quarter among 18-to-49-year-old women, as well as its target demo of 25-to-54-year-old women. Twenty-two films averaged 3.5 million viewers on their premiere nights, and films such as It’s Christmas, Eve (starring LeAnn Rimes), Christmas at Graceland (Kellie Pickler) & Pride, Prejudice & Mistletoe (Lacey Chabert) outdrew all the broadcast networks in their time period.
To review all of the Christmas films from Hallmark’s 2018 slate, head over here.