Audiences want fewer romantic holiday movies and more holiday thrillers

18 December, 2023

Image: Violent Night

Last week we highlighted the seasonal spike in demand for holiday movies and which platforms are best positioned to capitalize on this seasonal demand. But it is also important to note that the types of holiday content audiences want have been changing over time. While the family-friendly fare that likely comes to mind when imagining holiday movies still accounts for the vast majority of audience attention for holiday content, other varieties of holiday movies have been catching on with audiences in recent years.

Family-friendly films still make up a majority of holiday movies, although this is on the decline as more holiday movies in non-traditional genres are released. In 2021 three quarters of holiday movies could be categorized as family friendly. This share was down to 68% this year. Despite the shrinking supply share of family-friendly Christmas movies, over 80% of demand for holiday movies was for a family-friendly film in each of the past 3 years.


The majority of classic Christmas movies fall into this category and the best known of these can be counted on to have reliably high demand year after year. Movies like How the Grinch Stole ChristmasHome Alone, and Elf are currently among the ten most in-demand Christmas movies this season. It is understandably difficult for new movies to break into the crowded canon of Christmas classics. 

Meanwhile, if you’ve felt like romantic holiday movies have flooded the market you aren’t wrong.  The share of holiday movies about romance has steadily crept up each of the past three years since 2021 when these movies represented a third of holiday films.  At the same time, these movies have made up a smaller share of demand for holiday movies each year despite their increasing supply.  While audiences might be feeling tired of holiday romance, don’t count on seeing a slowdown in Christmas romance anytime soon.  The cookie cutter nature of many of these movies means they can be made cheaply so the ROI on these movies can be attractive.  Look no farther than the Christmas content machine at the Hallmark Channel to see how it is done.


While the Hallmark Christmas industrial complex is alive and well churning out Christmas movies each year, there has always been demand for holiday content that breaks the mold. Consider the perennial debate over whether the action-packed Die Hard is a Christmas movie (don’t worry, we included it in this analysis) or the horror-tinged Christmas classic Gremlins.

In the past two years the share of supply and demand for thriller holiday movies has been in balance. But this year there has been a large jump in demand for thriller holiday content. This shows that there is further opportunity for more of these movies to meet audience demand. Recent Christmas movies that have embraced more action, violence, and gore include Silent NightViolent Night, and It’s a Wonderful Knife. It seems the opportunities for expanding this genre are limited only by the number of holiday puns writers can think of.


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