Cinema’s Christmas-tinged screenings: could try harder

It’s not as if there haven’t been any Christmas films scheduled at local cinemas this December. Western production companies love to tie movies in with holidays and festivals, and Christmas is, of course, one of the biggest.  At the start of the month, arthouse cinema audience were treated to snowy Norwegian marriage tangle drama Happy Happy, and The Hunt, about an innocent man labelled a paedophile, is still being screened.  The multiplexes on the other hand pulled out Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger and Rise of the Guardians for the younger end of the school holiday crowd.  A digitally remastered version of Home Alone is being released on Friday, by the skin of its teeth before the Big Day itself.  It is just the thing to mop up victims of the Boxing Day lull and bored thumbtwiddlers desperate for New Year’s Eve. (Boxing Day is one to catch then too, of course.)

What is striking is how lacking in imagination are most movie-house schedulers, especially given the brpad range of Christmas films they could choose from.  There really are ones to suit all tastes and ages.  Yet, at many surburban cinemas, last year’s Aardman Animation, Arthur Christmas has been the only other seasonal film screened, if at all this year.  Even showing the original Nativity starring The Hobbit star, Martin Freeman as a companion piece to Nativity 2 appears to have crossed very few cinemas’ minds.  Of the London cinemas listed in The Independent on Saturday’s Radar section, the Clapham Picturehouse was, this week, the only venue where iit was being shown.

It is the arthouse cinemas which seem more keen to put on at least a bit of a Christmas show, though they are often at limited times or days rather than week long showings.  Stalwart It’s A Wonderful Life remains one of the favourites, but of the other films shown, what can be seen emerging is a generally accepted Christmas film ‘canon’: selected titles are on the whole familiar and much-loved. Whereas television schedules are a smorgasbord of favourites and lacklustre time-fillers, those cinema managers who make an effort to develop any form of Christmas programming seem more savvy.

If they’re not screening it’s A Wonderful Life, then Christmas would not be Christmas without either Die HardGremlins, a version of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and especially the delightful The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, and Elf.  Of that last film, director Jon Favreau interestingly. wanted to create an old-fashioned Christmas movie.  The whole cast, notably Will Ferrell as the fish-out-of-water human elf, Buddy are superb.  Released less than 10 years ago, Elf is already a seasonal favourite.   

But there is one London cinema I must give a well-deserved shout-out to. (I’m interested to know whether any other cinemas in other towns and cities can compete.) Since last Saturday running through to 29th December, the independent Prince Charles Cinema off Leicester Square in the West End has been spreading cinematic sparkle.  They have already shown BrazilMeet Me In St Louis (in which Judy Garland has never looked so lovely), Jingle All The WayBad SantaTrading Places, and Scrooged.  I plan on seeing the double-bill of A Christmas Story and A National Lampoon Christmas Vacation this Thursday evening.  As well as the afore-mentioned, the original Miracle on 34th Street and White Christmas are scheduled for this Saturday, and the cooler Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Lethal Weapon are showing Thursday week.

Something for everyone, then.

(For further details of Prince Charles Cinema’s Christmas programme, go to: http://www.princecharlescinema.com

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