The Washington Post
By Monica Hesse
Consider the Hallmark Channel in December.
No, but really.
“I cannot stop watching the Hallmark Channel,” says Mac Cohn, proprietor of a sports website in Ohio. “Usually to unwind I would watch football, but even watching football has become a political thing. The Hallmark Channel has none of that.”
Hallmark, which often seemed to exist just so you had something to fold laundry to, is now deep into its biggest annual event — “Countdown to Christmas,” a series of several dozen fresh-from-the-oven seasonal made-for-TV movies. And it is an event.
“The Christmas Train” — with a plot that is vaguely “Murder on the Orient Express,” if one replaces “murder” with “festive spirit” — reached 4.9 million viewers when it aired the Saturday after Thanksgiving weekend, the most-watched cable program in the country that day. Meanwhile, the actual “Murder on the Orient Express,” a feature film starring two Oscar winners and several nominees, recently made $10.7 million on its opening day in theaters. Impressive — but divide by roughly $10 a movie ticket, and that means there were five times more people watching Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Dermot Mulroney poke around a mystical polar express on Hallmark than multiplex-goers watching Johnny Depp and Dame Judi Dench.
“The Hallmark movie that is my favorite is ‘A Christmas to Remember,’ ” Cohn continues. “It’s a TV personality — I believe she has a cooking show? — and she needed to get away for the holidays, and she ended up wrecking her car in a snowbank, and she got amnesia. Have you seen it?”