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From: JZBelle DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by hostNov-26 10:09 PM 
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Comfort and joy? Psychologists say Christmas movies can be good for mental health

NOVEMBER 26, 2019 5:00 AM (Kansas City Star)

This time of year, Alicia Wishowsky knows exactly where her comfy place is after a stressful day at work — in her pajamas, cuddled under sherpa blankets on the sofa with her wife and their two pugs, watching a Hallmark Christmas movie.

“Hallmark movies are my happy place,” said Wishowsky, who is 33 and a special education teacher at Olathe East High School, where she works with students who have emotional and behavioral challenges.

Millions of people join her in that happy head space. As you read this they are watching an unprecedented number of Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel, Netflix, Ion, UPtv. Lifetime started playing them 24/7 this year — more than 1,000 hours of mistletoe and magic on that network alone.

Oprah Winfrey’s network, OWN, is getting into the holiday game for the first time this season with three new Christmas movies.

For Wishowsky, the movies are as comforting as a mug of hot cocoa stuffed with marshmallows at a particularly stressful time of year for her and her students. She turns on a Christmas movie and “turns off” her brain.

That’s by design, said Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming and network publicity for Crown Media Family Networks, the parent of Hallmark’s movie channels and a part of Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards.

Hallmark’s movie fans want “to know that things are going to be OK,” she said.

And, say psychologists who study the power of cinema, made-for-TV Christmas movies, with their picture-perfect tree-trimming and caroling and sledding and cookie-baking — and happy, sappy endings — can actually be good for our mental health, a soothing escapism. To a degree.

“No given movie is always going to have a positive impact for a given person. It’s a little simplistic to think … ‘Why don’t we all watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and it will heal all our wounds.’ That’s a nice image, but I’m skeptical,” said Skip Dine Young, a psychology professor at Hanover College in Indiana and author of “Psychology at the Movies.”

“But, I do think … with the holiday season in general, the themes of those times, particularly Christmas, are by and large healthy themes. They’re themes of community, they are themes of caring, they are themes of hope, they are themes of forgiveness. And those things all are central to mental health.”

Young, a clinical psychologist, calls movies “equipment for living” because of their potential to “go beyond ‘Oh that was an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.’ Which is great, in and of itself. But sometimes, they really touch us in more profound ways.”

TV historian Joanna Wilson has watched hundreds of hours of such entertainment. She wrote and is currently updating “Tis the Season TV: The Encyclopedia of Christmas-Themed Episodes, Specials and Made-for-TV Movies.”

Earlier this month she went to Christmas Con, a sold-out event that drew hundreds of exuberant Hallmark Christmas movie fans to a convention center in Edison, New Jersey.

“This is the proof in the pudding that I’ve known for a long time,” said Wilson. “These movies are hugely successful, hugely popular. People love these things.”

Nashville singer/songwriter Megan Mace professed her love in a recent tweet: “Catch me watching a Christmas movie every night until Christmas, ignoring the fact that I’ll be 27 this week. Lol.”

                    

 

 
From: JZBelle DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by hostNov-26 10:10 PM 
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THE ‘FEEL-GOOD’ HORMONES

This is your brain on a Christmas movie — it releases oxytocin and dopamine, the so-called “feel-good” hormones which fight low mood and anxiety, says British psychologist and researcher Jo Gee, who studies triggers of positive emotions in the brain.

“Christmas movies are generally good for mental health as they have a powerful effect on our mood,” Gee told The Star by email.

“Alongside dopamine which triggers the emotion of happiness, oxytocin makes us want to reach out to friends and family, which can further boost our mood through increased social interaction.”

Networks, in fact, promote viewing as a group activity. Winfrey’s OWN encourages viewers to watch its Christmas movies “with the ones you love.”

Hallmark sells the gear for watch parties, from wine glasses and cocoa mugs to socks printed with a message that can be seen when you put your feet up on the coffee table: “If you can read this, these are my Hallmark Christmas movie watching socks.”

“I think there are an awful lot of good things in these movies that make us happy, and in that way I think they’re good for our mental health,” said Wilson.

“Obviously if you’re struggling with your mental health you’re not feeling good. And that’s one of the things about Christmas movies — they try to make you feel good. Who doesn’t want to feel good at Christmas?

“And it doesn’t always come so easy, whether you have mental health issues or not. Christmas isn’t always a feel-good time for everybody. So this is the appeal for Christmas movies.”

In his research over the years, Young has asked many people what movies have been important in their lives, and why. “People come up with a whole lot of answers,” said Young, who is fond of the animated “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

“However, the Christmas movie genre comes up with great regularity. There’s a number of things that could be said about why. But one thing that jumps out is that … these movies almost always were (watched) as part of a group, most commonly family. People say, ‘we watched them together.’ So it goes beyond the content of the film.

“The most powerful thing is people saying this film reminds me of family. In a lot of people’s minds they have a special resonance.”

brette.jpg
Real estate agent Brette Johnston of Overland Park is a fan of Hallmark’s Christmas movies. Her husband, Tyler, also a big fan of the holidays, wore a Santa Suit to propose to her in June 2017.
Brette Johnston of Overland Park knows what he means.

She jokes that she is Hallmark Channel’s “exact demographic,” such a lover of the holidays that her husband, Tyler, climbed into a Santa suit in the summer of 2017 to propose. Their dog is named Todd after the obnoxious yuppie neighbor in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

“Hallmark movies in general are just feel-good movies. They’re easy watches,” said Johnston, a 27-year-old real estate agent who often watches the movies with her mom. “They always have a good story that just makes you feel good. And then you add in the element of holidays and it just elevates it to that next level.”

She knows that people mock the movies for their formulaic stories. She doesn’t care.

“I agree that they are all alike,” said Johnston. “I know Hallmark is often criticized for having the story line of the successful girl who lives in the big city and then gives up that life for the small-town boy. I’ve seen a lot of jokes about that.

“But I think it’s just nice to get a little lost in the simplicity of it … they just feel good. I think there’s the overall feeling of, this sounds so cheesy, hope and what the holidays can bring and maybe pulling people out of a slump.”

SPOILER ALERT: THERE’S ALWAYS A HAPPY ENDING
In 2018, thanks to its nine-week “Countdown to Christmas” movie extravaganza, the Hallmark Channel closed out the year as the “highest-rated and most-watched cable network” for the fourth quarter among women ages 18 to 54, according to Broadcasting & Cable, which covers the TV industry.

“I think one of the key things that makes people feel good, and the people that make Christmas TV movies have figured this out, there’s a formula,” said Wilson, the TV historian, who lives in Akron, Ohio.

joanna wilson.jpg
TV historian Joanna Wilson has watched hundreds of hours of Christmas entertainment created for TV and is currently updating “Tis the Season TV: The Encyclopedia of Christmas-Themed Episodes, Specials and Made-for-TV Movies.”
“On one hand, that makes critics say, ‘Oh, all these movies are predictable so they all must be terrible.’ But I think the crowds at Christmas Con and the ratings that Hallmark gets prove that this formula is actually desirable.

“We like people coming together. We like happiness. We like happy endings. We like the predictability of these things, maybe even more so at Christmas when our lives aren’t always so predictable.

“We can’t always get Uncle Frank or Uncle Bill to shut his mouth about politics. Or get Aunt Flo to stop talking about religion and just pass the mashed potatoes.

“But you know what? Those Hallmark movies, those Lifetime movies are predictable, they are positive and upbeat. And I think people are really drawn to that.”

The people who make the movies are unapologetic about their formulas for merry and bright programming. They have figured out which heartstrings to pull.

At Lifetime — where the core audience for Christmas movies is women ages 25 to 54 — the not-so-secret sauce consists of romance, family, Christmas trappings and sometimes magic, like the weird stuff that happens around town when the man you think might be Santa shows up.

“There is a bit of a, sort of a formula, or rhythm for them, that we actually believe is important. And I would say we lean into that,” said Meghan Hooper, the Lifetime senior vice president who oversees the network’s holiday programming.

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From: JZBelle DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by hostNov-26 10:11 PM 
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“They are a little predictable, and for us, we want people to know that if you’re going to come and spend two hours of your time, or four or six or eight, you are going to be satisfied at the end of that movie experience.”

There’s always a romance in a Lifetime Christmas movie, and an element of family, Hooper said.

The couples, by the way, always wind up together. “You could do a spoiler alert,” said Hooper. “That’s why people are watching them.”

And, the movies must be “intrinsically Christmas, meaning there’s a reason for them to take place around the holidays,” she said. “So making sure to incorporate holiday traditions, whether it’s baking or snowball fights or decorating trees or Christmas tree farms, that really makes it feel like it’s meant to take place during that time of year.”

In the case of the Hallmark Channel, and its sister channel Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, both of which air Christmas movies, themes reflect what the company has been known for over the last century. The Hallmark channels will introduce 40 new holiday movies this season.

“It all starts with the brand,” Vicary, of Hallmark, said. “We are the incredible recipients of … one of the most iconic brands in American history. It represents emotional connection, it represents relationships, it represents feeling good about yourself and your family and your friends and your community. And we use that as our filter and our lens for how we look at every movie.”

Hallmark has a different goal from some other movie makers, she said. “We are part of an entertainment community that does a lot of dark, edgy content, beautifully done. And people should watch it.

“But the human experience is not just all dark and edgy. Sometimes the human experience is positive and people feel good and things turn out OK and you feel a little bit better about life because something great happens to you. And that’s where our entertainment promise lives.”

Hooper said it’s no coincidence that so many familiar faces, mostly from ’80s and ’90s TV shows, show up in its movies. The stars of the 1980s sitcom “The Facts of Life” are reuniting in “You Light Up My Christmas,” premiering Dec. 1.

“They are talent that we grew up with,” she said. “Everyone from Tatyana Ali to Hilarie Burton to Markie Post or Dee Wallace (a native of Kansas City, Kansas) or Barry Bostwick, to Kim Fields and the ‘Facts of Life’ cast.

“I think that brings us comfort. We feel like we know these people. It all sort of plays into that sense of nostalgia and community.”

‘I SEE WHITE PEOPLE!’
Last Christmas Reddit user u/dareeza posted photos of eight Hallmark Christmas movie posters side by side to show how much they looked alike. Each showed a man and woman — one wearing green, the other red — in front of decorated trees and wreaths and Christmas lights..

“I see white people! Also red & green sweaters. And overly groomed men,” one commenter snarked.

You LIght Up My Christmas on Lifetime.jpg
The Lifetime Channel is trying to add more diversity to its holiday movies. Kim Fields of “Facts of Life” Fame” joins Adrian Holmes in “You Light Up My Christmas,” premiering at 7 p.m. Dec. 1. Brendan George Ko LIFETIME
Hooper said diversity is another must in a Lifetime Christmas movie because the audiences are diverse.

“We really want our movies to reflect the world that people live in,” said Hooper. “We know that people are coming for escapism, and there is a bit of ‘comfort food’ with these movies. So for people to be able to go into that world, go into that space, but to see themselves reflected in it is really important to us.”

Similar efforts on the Hallmark channels begat such movies this season as “A Christmas Miracle” starring former “Sister, Sister” star Tamera Mowry-Housley and “A Family Christmas Gift” with Patti LaBelle and Holly Robinson Peete.

“We listened to our viewers and we acknowledged that much like the rest of the industry, there was a lot of work to do catching up to making sure that we represent the United States as it is. And we understood that,” said Vicary.

Hallmark also added to its lineup “Holiday Date” and “Double Holiday,” two movies with Hanukkah-themed plots that critics have dinged, saying they’re just Christmas movies with Jewish characters. Lifetime has a Hanukkah-themed movie this year, too — “Mistletoe & Menorahs.”

“Both of those stories that we developed were really, really, great romantic comedies and dramedies that we thought were great movies. And the Hanukkah theme and the Christmas theme are in both of them,” said Vicary.

“If some people don’t like that particular one, we’re still working to try and make great movies. And will continue to make Hanukkah movies and will continue to make holiday movies that we think will make as many people happy as possible.”

CONTINUED

                    

 

 
From: JZBelle DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by hostNov-26 10:12 PM 
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FANTASY OR REALITY?
 

In a made-for-TV Christmas movie, the beautiful woman cute-meets the handsome guy and they live happily ever after. Always. Cue the kiss under the mistletoe. And snow. Always.

“Most of these movies have an extremely profound fantasy element. And it’s great sometimes to slip into this escapism and to enjoy the fantasy of these perfect romances and finding the perfect man,” said TV historian Wilson.

“But that doesn’t work for everybody and it depends on where you’re at in your life and how mature you are and how wise and how much experience you have to be able to distinguish that fantasy from reality.”

CONTINUED

                    

  • Edited November 26, 2019 10:13 pm  by  JZBelle
 

 
From: JZBelle DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by hostNov-26 10:14 PM 
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In “A Royal Christmas,” a perennial Hallmark Channel favorite, Lacey Chabert is a young working girl who is surprised when her new fiancé (Stephen Hagan) announces he is actually a prince of a small country in Europe. Gabriel Hennessey CROWN MEDIA
British psychologist Gee cautioned that some people could struggle watching Christmas films, that one person’s comfort might not be someone else’s joy, “particularly if the Christmas period is linked to a time of loss or a sense of nostalgia.

“Christmas films can portray the holiday in an ‘ideal’ way, which for people who are struggling, could lead to comparison and disappointment.”

It’s healthiest, Gee said, to get lost in the story instead of comparing it to your own life, and to remember that Christmas movies show the holidays as perfect when real life is not.

Take all those happy endings with “a healthy grain of salt,” said Ronald Rogge, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester in western New York who has studied the use of movies in couples therapy.

“All relationships are not founded on a ‘love at first sight, one and only soulmate, destined to be together’ framework,” said Rogge.

“Even if there aren’t magical sparks, even if you don’t look across the room and both of your hearts skip a beat, you can still have an amazing, rewarding, lifetime relationship with someone.”

Full disclosure: Rogge is a fan of Hallmark Christmas movies.   “I enjoy all kinds of movies. I enjoy fantasy movies, I enjoy sci-fi movies. But when you watch a sci-fi movie, you know this is for entertainment,” he said. “It’s not realistic for me to expect that I will be flying a spaceship anytime soon or having that kind of life.”

Fans of Christmas movies need to be just as discerning, he said.

You can have an “amazing life with someone and it doesn’t mean I have to exchange a magical snow globe with them … or find out that I’m some prince or princess from a small country and have my long-lost grandmother come and crown me for Christmas,” said Rogge.

“As fun as those stories are, those are not particularly realistic stories for the majority of us. Just take them for what they are, little blips of hope, not realistic blueprints.”

                    

 

 
From: JZBelle DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by hostNov-26 10:15 PM 
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The feel-good Hallmark Channel is booming in the age of Trump


There’s a very good chance that you or someone in your close circle of friends watches the Hallmark Channel.

Ratings are booming. Hallmark was the only non-news channel in the top 15 to see substantial viewership growth last year. In November and December, when Hallmark aired Christmas movies almost nonstop, the channel often ran neck-and-neck with Fox News and ESPN for the title of most-watched TV network on basic cable. Ratings are up another 9 percent so far this year, Nielsen says, and the Christmas movie marathon hasn’t even started yet.

It’s feel-good TV. There’s no sex or gore. Hallmark movies and series like “When Calls the Heart” and “Chesapeake Shores” have happy endings. The main characters do the right thing. The problems get worked out. The guy and girl, whatever their age or grumpiness level at the start, always end up together.
This kind of TV has always drawn in older women, but Hallmark’s appeal isn’t limited to them anymore. Ratings are growing fast among 18- to 49-year-old women, and a growing number of men are tuning in as well. Men account for some of the jump in the Nielsen ratings, and when the channel does focus groups, increasing numbers of men say they watch with their wives.
The few culture magazines that have noticed Hallmark’s popularity surge say it’s all about production value. “The movies look more high-quality now than they used to,” pop culture site A.V. Club said earlier this year. The channel is owned by Crown Media, which is owned by Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards Inc. Crown Media confirms it has been spending a lot more on its movies and shows lately, but better acting alone doesn’t explain the big jump in viewership and advertising dollars last year.

“The environment is undeniable contentious. We are a place you can go and feel good,” says Bill Abbott, chief executive of Crown Media.

That’s a polite way of saying more and more Americans are turning to the Hallmark Channel for relief from the daily news cycle. Hallmark is the complete opposite of the divisiveness that so many families felt during the election and President Donald Trump’s penchant for courting controversy.

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  • Edited November 26, 2019 10:16 pm  by  JZBelle
 

 
From: JZBelle DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by hostNov-26 10:15 PM 
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Turn on the news and you see people who can’t get along, even in the same party. Turn on Hallmark and everyone ends the show smiling. The characters work together to save their town or store or farm.

Hallmark’s ratings have been rising for several years, but it really started surging in late 2015, right about the time the election — and the Trump phenomenon — took off. During the week of the election last year, the Hallmark Channel was the fourth-most watched channel on TV during prime time. Let that sink in. It had more prime-time viewers than MSNBC did, and it was just behind CNN and ESPN.

“We intentionally branded ourselves as the happy place,” Abbott says. Hallmark’s tagline is “the heart of TV.”

The happy formula is working. The Hallmark Channel and its sister station, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, are doing so well that Crown Media just announced it will launch a third channel — Hallmark Drama — on Oct. 1. At a time when pundits are ready to proclaim the death of cable TV, Hallmark is starting up another old-school channel. That’s how much demand Hallmark believes there is for its family-friendly, feel-good shows.

The end of the year is Hallmark’s sweet spot — for viewers and advertising dollars. The channel will start running its Countdown to Christmas on Oct. 27, with 21 original movies that all have a holiday theme. Viewers love it. Hallmark claims more than 85 million people watched one of its channels during November and December last year. Hallmark easily won the ratings race among female viewers during the holidays and was even able to rival powerhouse channels Fox, ESPN and Nickelodeon at times for overall household viewership.

Advertisers are also flocking. Hallmark is now attracting car companies and financial firms as advertisers. That’s rare for channels that are perceived as mostly women’s networks. Hallmark is also making more of an effort to have nonwhite actors, although the company admits it has more work to do on diversity. At Upfronts, a massive convention for TV advertising where network executives gather to try to lure more dollars to their channels, Adweek noted how relaxed Hallmark executives were. While many other TV executives were trying to convince advertisers their network wasn’t dying, Hallmark just pointed to the ratings.

Hallmark is on track to surpass its stellar 2016, especially after the Christmas season. Last year, Hallmark averaged 1.1 million viewers during prime time. Viewership is already up through July, compared with the same period in 2016. With fall shaping up to be a contentious time for the United States at home and abroad, Hallmark could be the big winner.

                    

 

 
From: JZBelle DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by hostNov-26 10:24 PM 
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Everything We Know About Hallmark Christmas Movies for 2019

See the full Countdown to Christmas schedule here.

https://www.countryliving.com/life/entertainment/a26802748/hallmark-christmas-movies-schedule-2019/

 

                    

 

 
From: JZBelle DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by hostNov-26 10:26 PM 
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 8196.9 in reply to 8196.8 

Lifetime's 2019 Christmas Movie Lineup Is Seriously Impressive

"It's a Wonderful Lifetime" is giving us more movies than ever before.

Get your cup of hot cocoa ready because Lifetime is giving us the best Christmas gift of all: 1,000 hours of entertainment that'll bring tidings of comfort and joy. (and, ya know, all the seasonal cheer that you can handle). This year, the cable network is breaking yet another record by releasing 30 all-new holiday movies, topping last year's 18. Starting October 25 (yes, conveniently the same day as Hallmark's), "It's a Wonderful Lifetime" will air yuletide movies 24/7 all the way through Christmas with star-studded ensembles including Melissa Joan Hart, Kelly Rowland, and Tia Mowry-Hardrict.

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/christmas-ideas/g28928921/lifetime-christmas-movies-2019/

                    

 

 
From: JZBelle DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by hostNov-26 11:48 PM 
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 8196.10 in reply to 8196.9 

Christmas movie database for Ion - - 

https://www.countdownuntilchristmas.com/channel/ion/

 

                    

 

 
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