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Why aren't there as many Thanksgiving movies as Christmas movies?

Yuletide films have made more than $3.5 billion at the box office, while Thanksgiving movies made a fraction of that at $450 million.
Why aren't there as many Thanksgiving movies as Christmas movies?
Posted at 12:29 PM, Nov 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-22 14:31:06-05

With classics like "It's a Wonderful Life," comedies like "Elf" and multiple iterations of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," there's no shortage of Christmas movies to watch with your family this holiday season.

But for Thanksgiving? The smorgasbord of cinematic classics is much more limited.

Christmas-themed movies released to theaters outnumber Thanksgiving films 4 to 1, according to data from box office Mojo. And that doesn't even include the hundreds of TV Christmas movies from Hallmark and Lifetime.

Yuletide films have also made more than $3.5 billion at the box office, while Thanksgiving movies made a fraction of that at $450 million. 

So why this stark difference? Since the Golden Age of Hollywood, with films like "White Christmas" and "Miracle on 34th Street," Christmas gave filmmakers the opportunity to write stories for both kids and adults about themes like community, faith and family.

These themes resonated with Christian audiences, but also appealed to a sense of nostalgia for all moviegoers — both domestic and international.

Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is much more U.S.-centric — with a reputation for family dysfunction, fights at the dinner table and the start of the chaotic holiday travel season.

Films like Adam Sandler's "Jack and Jill" and John Hughes' "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" lovingly lampooned these stereotypes of Thanksgiving — but beyond the big screen, the humor of the holiday is also played out often on television through annual themed episodes on sitcoms like "Friends," "New Girl" and "Bob's Burgers."

Thanksgiving day itself sees a bump in TV viewership thanks to football and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

It may not be a tradition fit for the big screen, but it's at least one more example of turkey day reclaiming the spotlight from its holiday rival.

SEE MORE: 10 Thanksgiving movies to relax with after the big meal


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