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What makes a classic holiday movie?

Donna Reed and James Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life” in 1946.
Original Santa Claus and Rudolph puppets from the1964 stop-motion animated TV special "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" are seen on display at a comic book convention in 2007. Kevin Kriess, of Pittsburgh, found the puppets and had them restored after they were used as toys. Associated Press file photo
Theatergoers begin getting seated for a film at the Strand Theater in Zelienople. Butler Eagle file photo

Holiday tidings come with holiday movies, but what makes a holiday movie a classic?

“I think that film is a really immersive experience, and usually when we see a film, we are looking for an emotional reaction or response to it,” said Kimberly Miller, chair and professor of communication arts at Grove City College.

Miller teaches various writing and film-related courses, with topics including screenwriting, film history and theory, Christian faith and cinema, novel writing and developing characters.

“Any film, whether it is a Christmas film or a generally classic film, usually we are looking to return to those feelings, I think some of it is a sense of nostalgia,” Miller said. “Maybe we watched a movie as a child and that brings up those memories. We like to have that feeling of being with family, that feeling of togetherness.”

Along with holiday-based nostalgic memories, Miller believes that the feelings a film can evoke make it a seasonal classic; such films “are honest and have universal themes.”

“We all seek acceptance, we all seek love, and those things don’t change over time,” Miller said. “So films like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ or even ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ we all look to be accepted, we don’t like bullies. These are themes that are timeless and universal, and I think that they’re not going to change.”

Miller even listed a few of her own favorite holiday movies — such as “Christmas in Connecticut,” “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas,” “A Christmas Story,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “White Christmas.”

“Looking forward to that time of being together, sitting down and slowing down, I think that’s certainly a part of what keeps us returning to those films again and again,” Miller said.

This holiday season, The Strand Theatre on Zelienople’s Main Street will play two classic Christmas movies.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” will be on Dec. 9 and 10 starting at 7:30 p.m. and on Dec. 11 at 2 p.m.

“It Happened on 5th Avenue” will play Friday, Dec. 23, at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $5 for general admission and $4 for seniors age 65 and older.

“A Christmas Story, is a 1983 movie centering on Ralphie Parker attempting to convince his parents, school teacher and even a department store Santa that he can be trusted with a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rife for Christmas. Peter Billingsley played Ralphie.
Kimberly Miller

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