The Second Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Inside Hallmark's Christmas in July 2019
Ah, the dog days of summer. A time for coconut-scented sunscreen, backyard barbecues, and — thanks to Hallmark — a monthlong marathon of cozy holiday movies.
For the fifth year, fans of mistletoe and merrymaking will be treated to an early fix as a bacchanal of more than 225 original Christmas flicks from its extensive catalog are served up on Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and the streaming service Hallmark Movies Now.
"There is such a magical feeling around the holidays — it's like a halo effect," says Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming and publicity for Crown Media Family Networks. "Tapping into that during the summer is fun and decadent."
It also ranks surprisingly high on a lot of wish lists. According to Vicary, the concept was initially inspired by the devoted cadre of shoppers who eagerly anticipate the release of Hallmark's keepsake ornaments in stores each July: "We realized that they were thinking about Christmas in July, and we could [cater] to that with our programming."
Considering the success the network enjoys with its annual Countdown to Christmas, traditionally beginning in late October, the decision to keep the eggnog flowing was a good call. Last July, Hallmark Channel's Christmas offerings reached 24.8 million folks.
"Our audience loves what we do at the holidays and experiences a sense of heartbreak when it's over," Vicary says. "This is a way to give them what they want."
Behold, a glimpse at the treasures awaiting under the (palm) tree.
The New Addition
Per usual, the lineups will be dominated by previously aired movies — i.e., ghosts of Christmases past. But making its Hallmark Movies & Mysteries grand debut on July 11 (9/8c) is Christmas Camp, starring Lily Anne Harrison, daughter of Hallmark vet Gregory Harrison (2014's The Nine Lives of Christmas, July 14, 4/3c, Hallmark). She plays Hayley, an executive at a slick ad agency who, in an effort to land a toy company account, heads off for a crash course in the real spirit of the season.
"It's a story about family, hope, and what's truly important," Harrison says. "Those things never get old!"
If Christmas Camp strikes a chord, it will earn the right to countless future airings. Says Harrison, "I've watched my dad touch so many people over the years [with his Hallmark movies]. It's a very big deal to know I'll be on TV in so many homes."
Too much of a good thing? As if! Scores of the most beloved movies will hit the airwaves a handful of times during HM&M's "Gold Crown Christmas" event (running 24/7 from June 28 to July 14), Hallmark's "Christmas Keepsake" spectacular (July 12–July 27), and Hallmark Movies Now's "Jingle in July" (all month).
The frequent fliers are chosen based on past ratings and broadcast at various times to optimize viewers' chances of catching the ones they crave. A Godwink Christmas — last year's charming, serendipity-fueled yarn starring Kimberley Sustad, Paul Campbell, and Kathie Lee Gifford — will have four encores on HM&M, starting with June 30 at 9/8c.
"We schedule movies to get the most exposure," Vicary explains. "We might air the same movie on a Sunday afternoon and then again on a weekday in order to reach the largest numbers. It's very strategic."
Naturally, many of the oft-rerun titles feature Hallmark's "all-stars," the roster of wildly popular protagonists, like Alicia Witt, whose 2013 movie, A Very Merry Mix-Up (the chronicle of a woman who thinks she's celebrating the holidays with her fiancé's family), airs four times on Hallmark beginning July 13 at 6am/5c.
Lacey Chabert will have six movies on the schedule, including 2014's A Royal Christmas (July 12, 10/9c, Hallmark) and 2018's Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe (July 13, 6/5c, Hallmark).
The brand's reigning queen of Christmas, Candace Cameron Bure, will pop up in seven titles. A Shoe Addict's Christmas (July 15, midnight/11c, Hallmark), in which she portrays a modern-day Scrooge who accidentally gets locked in a department store, raked in 4.23 million viewers when it premiered last November.
"The audience feels like they know Candace," Vicary says. "That's the case with a lot of our stars."
Some of Hallmark's most cherished Christmas movies have an even older vintage, and stumbling across these gems feels like bumping into a long-lost friend.
A Boyfriend for Christmas (July 18, 6am/5c, Hallmark) — starring Kelli Williams as a woman who gets a gift from St. Nick in the form of Patrick Muldoon — dates back to 2004. "The premise is obviously very sweet, and the chemistry between the actors is terrific," Vicary says.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (July 14, 10am/9c, Hallmark) — the 2008 entry starring Brooke Burns and Henry Winkler as her matchmaker uncle — is another classic crowd-pleaser. "Henry is the reason, for sure!" Vicary says.
And true aficionados will have a soft spot for The Christmas Card (July 4, 7/6c, HM&M), starring John Newton as a soldier who receives an inspirational missive from a church volunteer (Alice Evans). It first bowed in 2006 and has aired every year since.
"It's still cited as the favorite movie we've ever made," Vicary says, noting that the lead actors never returned to the fold to make any additional films. Why not, pray tell? "That's a great question!" says Vicary.
Your move, Santa.
"Gold Crown Christmas," June 28-July 14, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
"Christmas Keepsake," July 12-27, Hallmark Channel
"Jingle in July," July, Hallmark Movies Now