Have a holly Hallmark Christmas
When Andy Williams strikes up the band and croons, "It's the most wonderful time of the year," we all know what he's talking about: Hallmark Christmas movie season. What's more comforting than curling up on the couch with a cup of cocoa and escaping into the feel-good charm of a Hallmark movie?
These joyful, heart-warming cornerstones of the holidays are also about as formulaic as a holiday cookie recipe. So, we decided to make our own holiday merriment by using artificial intelligence (AI) to write a Hallmark-style Christmas movie ourselves. What tropes did the AI learn for its screenwriting debut? Did film fans put AI's movies on the naughty or nice list? Let's see how these creations stack up against the classics.
Cracking the cookie cutter code
To create these holiday movies, we gave AI a mixture of Hallmark and Hollywood Christmas films and had it generate 12 movie titles, plot synopses and posters based on them. Even without the help of Santa's elves, AI managed to tinker together some very merry movie ideas. Here are the top five AI-generated Christmas films, according to over 1,000 survey respondents:
"The Best Christmas Ever" (Poster)
When two single parents meet and fall in love just before Christmas, they must learn to blend their families and traditions to create the best Christmas ever for their children.
"The Christmas Wish" (Poster)
When a young girl's Christmas wish comes true, she learns that sometimes, the best gifts are the ones you can't put a price tag on.
"The Christmas Secret" (Poster)
A woman discovers a hidden box of holiday letters dating back decades and replies to them. As she corresponds with the different people who wrote the letters, she starts to get a better understanding of what the holidays are really about and begins to fall in love with the spirit of Christmas.
"Santa's Helpers" (Poster)
When the elves at the North Pole go on strike, Santa Claus has to find a way to finish all the toys by Christmas Eve. He decides to hire a group of out-of-work humans to help him, but it turns out that they are not as reliable as he had hoped.
"A Second Chance at Christmas" (Poster)
After a holiday season spent apart, a divorced couple realizes that they still have feelings for each other and decide to give their relationship another try.
We added these titles, posters and descriptions to a list along with those of real Hallmark and Hollywood movies, then asked respondents which films they would like to watch.
Survey participants were filled with AI-generated Christmas spirit as eight of the top 10 films were created by AI. Three of them even made the top five, sharing the spotlight with the No. 1 pick, "Elf," and the No. 3 pick, "Home Alone." AI's films even beat long-beloved classics "Miracle on 34th Street" and "White Christmas." Perhaps Santa should ask AI to be his newest little helper.
Meanwhile, none of AI's movies were in the bottom five. Instead, they were all real movies – mostly by Hallmark. The only one that wasn't was the modern Hollywood Christmas classic, "The Holiday." The worst-ranking film was Hallmark's "The Christmas Spirit," which got nothing but coal in its stocking.
All I want for Christmas (movies) is…
While many love a cookie-cutter Hallmark Christmas movie, they may want a few more sprinkles on the icing. We asked respondents what they wanted to see more and less of in Hallmark holiday films. Let's see what was on their wish lists.
The top thing viewers wanted to see more of was inclusion: about 50% wanted more diverse casts, 40% wanted more diverse leads and 32% wanted more LGBTQ representation. The desire for diversity shouldn't surprise Hallmark; critics have long called out their white-dominated, heteronormative film content. Filmmakers have recently shown increased efforts to expand the diversity and inclusivity in movies, but more work is needed if they want to get off the naughty list.
Speaking of naughtiness, a few Christmas movie tropes had viewers feeling like the Grinch. The most disliked trope was the businesswoman who must choose between family and career (in 2022, women can work and have a family.) The second worst trope was the main character being a workaholic. With economic inflation putting America on the verge of a recession, perhaps today's audiences don't appreciate being disparaged for working hard to put presents under their tree.
As for the most-loved tropes, nearly 50% wanted to see more characters returning to their hometown, with bonus points if it snows on Christmas. Women most wanted to see more secretly royalty characters, hinting that childhood dreams of being a princess die hard. Most men were more industrial, preferring to see a big corporation trying to shut down a small business. Every movie needs a villain.
Viewers had strong opinions on what they did and didn't want in future Christmas movies, but what about the ones that already exist? Next, we asked respondents about their favorite holiday films and actors.
The perennial Christmas classic, "Home Alone," was the favorite shared by most Americans. It was the number one favorite for baby boomers, Gen X and millennials, and the number two film for Gen Z. Will you please tell Santa that instead of presents this year, we just want to watch that guy get hit in the face with an iron? As for Hallmark Christmas movies in particular, "A Royal Christmas" reigned supreme as the viewer favorite. With secret royalty and snow on Christmas Day, it's no wonder it jingled the most bells.
Though they may not be royalty (not even in secret), several actors have become go-to leads for Hallmark holiday films. Three viewer favorites – Candace Cameron Bure, Danica McKellar and Dean Cain – are comeback actors from iconic TV shows of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Considering most people who watch Hallmark movies are millennials and Gen Xers, there's a good chance that Christmas nostalgia is the primary source of these actors' popularity.
Holly jolly holidays
Hallmark Christmas movies are a holiday tradition, perfect for a cold winter's night. With their comfortingly predictable plots and sticky-sweet happy endings, even AI can generate a trope-filled holiday classic. While viewers would like to see more inclusive casts, plots and different holidays, it's the innocent, formulaic nature of these films that makes them so festive.
Holidays are a time for joy and cheer, and Hallmark Christmas movies are brimming with goodness and positivity. So deck the halls, trim the tree, decorate some gingerbread and have yourself a happy Hallmark holiday.
Cinch Home Services surveyed 1,001 respondents ranging in age from 20 to 81 in order to explore their holiday film preferences. The mean age was 34. Of these respondents, 477 identified as women, 521 identified as men and 3 identified as nonbinary. The survey results contain 86 baby boomers, 147 Gen Xers, 576 millennials, 190 Gen Zers and 2 respondents from a different generation.
Film descriptions were generated using the Playground Open AI and then given to survey respondents. Film descriptions were generated based on 20 popular Hallmark holiday films and 20 popular Hollywood holiday films.
About Cinch Home Services
With more than 40 years of home industry experience, Cinch Home Services offers award-winning home warranty services. Cinch has a range of plans to fit your needs, a nationwide network of service pros to ensure your repairs get done right and an industry-leading 180-day workmanship guarantee to back it all up.
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