The holiday season is in full swing, with Christmas music blasting from stores and restaurants, houses lit up with twinkling lights, and snow coating (parts of) the country. Nothing evokes the holiday season quite like Christmas movies, and the options of what to watch this year are endless. Whether you’re looking to share family fun laughs with Apple TV+’s new flick, Spirited, or revisit the ultimate yippee ki yay Christmas classic, Die Hard, there’s something on TV for everyone this season.
With hundreds of new holiday-themed movies joining beloved classics on streamers, what are people choosing to watch this year? We took a look at some of the top holiday movies of 2022 - both classics and newcomers - to shed some light on this year’s yuletide viewership trends.
Nothing scratches the Christmas movie itch like one of the classics
Watching that classic holiday movie staple is as essential to getting in the holiday spirit as turning on Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas. And this year, American households are eager to re-watch their holiday classics as the season kicks off. As people across the country started to dig through their tangled lights, perhaps it's no surprise that they turned to the original Christmas light champion, Clark Griswold, for inspiration. Leading the pack in viewership this year is the 80s classic, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, viewed by 8.6M U.S. households between November 8 and December 11. Home Alone followed closely behind with 8.4M households, and Will Ferrel’s Elf nabbed 7.9M households.
Americans were extra hungry for candy canes, mistletoe, and nostalgia in heavy doses this year, with 11 out of the 15 top-viewed holiday classics driving more viewership between November 8 and December 11 in 2022 than 2021. Top performers National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, and Elf saw year-over-year increases of 8%, 59%, and 224%, respectively. All told, nearly 25M unique U.S. households tuned in to the top 10 films this year, marking a 13% year-over-year increase from 2021.
Two new streaming holiday movies (Falling for Christmas and The Noel Diary, both on Netflix), surpassed 2.5M households within the November 8 to December 11 time period and cracked into the top 10 most-watched films. Giving the holiday classics an even greater advantage was their wide availability across a mix of linear networks and streaming platforms.
Netflix movies top Santa’s good list among new streaming releases
Falling For Christmas and The Noel Diary were standouts among the new streaming holiday movies, driving 3.2M and 2.8M household views during the November 8 to December 11 timeframe. They were the only new holiday movies on streaming platforms to surpass 1.5M households within those dates.
The top performing new streaming movie outside of Netflix’s catalog was Spirited on Apple TV+, which drove 1.4M views throughout the period, followed by A Christmas Story Christmas on HBO Max.
One new Netflix movie stood out for attracting attention from hard-to-reach light TV viewers, who watch little to no linear TV and comprise 45% of the U.S. population. This audience said “bah humbug” to almost every holiday movie analyzed, both old and new, with the exception of Scrooge: A Christmas Carol on Netflix. In the battle of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, light TV viewers over-indexed by 10% on Netflix’s new take over Apple TV+’s star studded version.
New holiday movies top millennials’s Christmas lists
Were you more interested in new streaming movies this season or old classics? The answer probably depends on your age. Millennials preferred to catch new holiday movies that featured their favorite stars via streaming platforms, with older millennials in particular (A35-44) over-indexing in viewership across all 11 of the top new streaming holiday movies measured between November 8 and December 11. HBO Max movies. Santa Camp and A Christmas Mystery, saw the highest over-indexes at +55% and +27%, respectively.
Younger millennials (A25-34) also over-indexed across the majority of new streaming movies, with Freddie Prinze Jr.’s Christmas With You the clear favorite at a 13% over-index. By comparison, that group under-indexed on all but one of the top older holiday movies, The Christmas Chronicles 2. Meanwhile, the A55-64 group tended to favor the tried and true Christmas classics versus the national average, while under-indexing across the majority of new streaming releases.
Oh the weather outside is frightful, let’s watch another holiday movie
When it comes to getting in the holiday spirit, the presence of changing seasons seems to matter. Colder cities like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Boston were particularly eager for holiday content on TV this year, while warmer DMAs were less likely to watch.
For example, households in Pittsburgh snuggled up and over-indexed on every one of the top 20 holiday movies measured between November 8 and December 11 (both classics and new streaming releases), while Philadelphia and Boston households over-indexed on 80%-85% of the top 20 list. Meanwhile, warmer DMAs like Dallas, Los Angeles, and Tampa said “winter wonderwho?” and over-indexed on a meager 1-2 of the top 20 movies.
As people flip on their favorite classic holiday movies to watch while wrapping presents or sit down to try out a new release with a glass of eggnog, there’s no shortage of content to turn to this year to get in the holiday spirit. And this year more than last, the data shows Americans can’t wait to watch TV and be merry.
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