Do People Go To The Movie Theaters On Christmas Day?

For many individuals, the Christmas season is a time to unwind from the things keeping them busy. The holidays provide free time to enjoy the company of loved ones, and as such, give us time for activities, games, and outings together. So keeping this in mind, do people actually go to the movie theaters on Christmas Day?

People go to the movies on Christmas Day quite a bit it seems. According to the movie industry, Christmas is not only a popular day for attending the movie theater, but it is also the start of the most profitable eight days of the year (to New Year’s), making up 5% of the total annual ticket sales.

My family is like many in the US who have traditionally linked moving going with Christmas. For decades, we’d attend a ‘family movie’ on Christmas day, whether after or before the bulk of our holiday activities. Below I’ve looked at this tradition, why families (and even those without ‘families’) go to the movies at Christmas, what kinds of movies are released specifically on this holiday, and more. So don’t be a Scrooge, and read on!


Why Do People Go To the Movies At Christmas?

Pressures of money and gift buying, seeing (or not seeing) family, and unrealistic expectations can make Christmas holidays problematic for people. And for those already suffering from depression and/or anxiety, it can be especially daunting. So what is it that makes people go to the movies at Christmas, then?

Many different reasons lead people to go to the movies at Christmas. Some go out of tradition; others go because they have time off to do something they don’t normally get to do like see a movie. And yet, there are also people who go because the activity lifts their spirits during the holidays.

According to Cedars Sinai, Christmas can be very depressing for many people. There are people who aren’t normally depressed but the holiday expectations and demands bring about ‘seasonal depression.’ Then, there are those who are already diagnosed as depressed whose symptoms are exacerbated by the holiday stress. It’s important to recognize signs of depression to support loved ones.

Some key signs to look for would be changes in mood or behavior that are different from the norm.

Dr. Michael Wetter, Cedars-Sinai

Dr. Wetter also suggests spending time with loved ones and letting them know you are there for them to help those who suffer or are at-risk for depression.

But people go to the movies at Christmas not just to off-set depression or ‘the blues.’ People also go for tradition.

For many years, our family always saw a movie on Christmas Day. Sometimes it was a movie just released, but often, we ‘saved’ a movie we wanted to see for Christmas Day. For example, one year we knew we’d be in Germany at Christmas, so we waited to see the latest Star Wars until Christmas Day when in Munich.

We saw Star Wars on Christmas Day 2015 in Munich, Germany.

Many people are generally off work, and children are out of school over the Christmas season. This is another reason some people go to the movie theatre on Christmas.

Since they have time off work and school, it presents an excellent opportunity for people to have fun together. Seeing a movie is one of the most popular ways for people to do so.

The movies played in theaters on Christmas are usually entertaining and appropriate for the entire family, too. Well, at least one or two options are! We’ll look at this more below in the next section.

And keep in mind that even though Christmas is a Christian festival, most holiday films are not religious in the conventional sense and this leaves movie viewing open for non-religious or other-religious people.

As well, movie watching is accessible to everyone, religion aside! Some individuals don’t enjoy crowded events, they are comfortable in a theater/theatre setting. Even if the theater is ‘crowded’ people don’t have to worry about lack of space since you’re seated most of the time. And as for concessions, you can skip that or go to a theater that provides seat-service, which many are doing nowadays.

Theaters are also accessible for handicapped or disabled people; people with walking issues; people with small children and so on.

Why Do Movies Open on Christmas Day?

While many people see Christmas as a religious holiday, there’s nothing to preclude most religious people from watching a movie at the theater on Christmas. As well, there are many non-religious people too who happen to have time off on this day. Savvy business people have been able to capitalize on this, particularly the movie industry from film makers to theater owners.

Movies open on Christmas Day because it’s profitable. Data shows that the 8 days from Christmas to New Year’s make up 5% of ticket sales, proving just how popular in fact. Often movies seen on Christmas is the equivalent of ‘Black Friday’ for film makers and theater owners.

Some theaters report that business rises about 3 PM or 4 PM Christmas day when Mass has been attended and gifts have been unwrapped, giving people free time to do something ‘extra’ that day. Others start their showings as early as 10 AM to get the ‘pre-Christmas dinner’ crowd, which by all accounts, seems to work!

So from the movie maker or theater owner point of view showing a movie on Christmas day makes sense! They’re providing ‘supply’ for people’s obvious demand and usability.

And from the flipside, you wouldn’t expect movies to be released when people don’t show the demand for it. For instance, most movies are typically released on a Friday to kick off the weekend, when people are off. There’s been a slight trend to try to expand the weekend box office to include Thursday evening, so often a movie’s ‘weekend gross total’ will include a soft Thursday opening crowd too.

Regardless, you don’t see movies released on a Monday or Tuesday, for example, because people don’t generally see movies then. That’s the work/school week. (Unless of course, a holiday falls on Monday).

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For many, going to ‘the movies’ on Christmas Day is part of their holiday tradition.

Likewise, movies are released on Christmas because people are off that day to go see it.

Below I’ve listed some movies -some good, some not-so-good- from Christmas pasts that have been released.

Movies Released On Christmas Day

  • Tombstone was one of the first box-office successes released on Christmas Day (in 1993). It’s a western centering on the life of Wyatt Earp and his ‘posse’. It’s still critically acclaimed today and one that is often on many ‘best films’ lists. However, it’s not a ‘Christmasy’ movie by any means, other than it’s original release date.
Tombstone boasts an entourage of seasoned actors and still maintains over 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Wolf Creek is a slasher film set in the Australian outback. It’s gore is certainly more aligned with a Halloween release, but perhaps that’s what made them go for the unexpected Dec. 25, 2005 opening. Made on a modest budget, it has grossed 30 times it’s costs so far, prompting spin offs including two seasons of a tv series version!
The slasher film Wolf Creek released on Christmas Day spawned a series of the same name and theme a decade later with the same lead actor, only this time released in a more suitable October.
  • Sherlock Holmes with lead by Robert Downey, Jr. opened on Christmas Day, 2009. This movie, though PG-13, is thought more ‘family friendly’ and a bit more ‘Christmas-y’ than the two previously mentioned Christmas Day-released films. Downey and Law starred in the sequel as well.
Actors Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law starred in the lead roles in the 2009 version of Sherlock Holmes.
  • Wolf of Wall Street about the excess and indulgence of extreme capitalism opened Christmas, 2013. This has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, unless it’s some sort of vague allusion to overspending on gifts! It’s definitely not family-friendly either. But…it just happens to be one of several films in which DiCaprio stars that were released on various Christmas days.
Paramount Pictures released The Wolf of Wall Street on Christmas Day 2013.
  • Wonder Woman 1984, a sequel to Summer 2017’s Wonder Woman, was released on Christmas Day, 2020. This film is much more family kind than many others mentioned with Christmas opening days. Wonder Woman 1984 follows the success of ‘Wonder Women’, though it didn’t make nearly the same return. Kids (and parents) are apt to enjoy it nonetheless with its glitz, big showy scenes, and likable action-hero star!
Wonder Woman 1984 was released Christmas Day on December 25, 2020, during a global pandemic.

Curious Trivia: Leonardo DiCaprio has certainly earned some sort of record for acting in the most films released on Christmas Day. From Catch Me If You Can also starring Tom Hanks in 2002 to DJango Unchained with Jamie Foxx, he’s in at least 4 by my count, not including several other films released ‘around Christmas’ in December like The Revenant and Titanic.

Christmas Movies for Christmas Day (or any day of the season)

From Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to Elf, there are many Christmas themed movies popular to watch at Christmas time.

Personally, I start watching Christmas themed movies the day after Thanksgiving (okay, sometimes on Thanksgiving evening in total transparency). There are many options for Christmas themed movies, especially given the Hallmark corner on Christmas movies they’ve carved out for themselves in the past decade!

That being said, I am not much of a Hallmark fan. I am a Christmas movie fan though, and have watched most of the traditional ones more times than I can count on one hand! As a self-proclaimed expert, below I’ve listed the Christmas movies I must watch and recommend you do too!

  1. It’s A Wonderful Life by Frank Capra is our family’s number one Christmas movie. We generally save it for Christmas Day as it’s our favorite, but there have been many years I watch it on my own once or twice before then. I think it’s our favorite because it’s well acted (I mean, it’s Jimmy Stewart!), sparks hope, has an intricate story given it’s depth and length, and it’s Catholic /Christian nod.
  2. A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott is the absolute best Charles Dickens version of his Christmas tale. This version is hands-down the winner solely because of Scott! He made Scrooge his own!
  3. Elf with Will Ferrell is silly, Christmas fun! We have to watch Elf every Christmas. ‘Buddy’ has some of the funniest comedic lines as he demonstrates his zeal for Santa and Christmas.
  4. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas from 1966 by Dr. Seuss is heartwarming still after all this time and even brought about the idea of ‘Grinchmas’. No Christmas viewing list is complete without ‘the Grinch.’
  5. A Charlie Brown Christmas from 1965 is the animated tale that actually includes ‘the reason for the season’ by reciting Luke chapter 2.

Now to be clear, I can easily double and probably triple this list with what I watch at Christmas time and would recommend to people I like! But to keep this article manageable I’ve greatly limited my list to the aforementioned ‘fab fav five.’ That being said, I had to include just one more, calling it ‘an honorable mention.’

Honorable Mention:

  • Home Alone is not so much about Christmas as it is about Christmas as it’s setting of the film. The church scene, music, and holiday decorations make this an iconic Christmas movie- full of laughter and shenanigans to boot!
  • Do People Go To the Movie Theatres On Holidays Other Than Christmas?

    And since Christmas day isn’t the only popular holiday to release films, and for when people to go to the movie theatres, I’ve added this section. Here I’ve listed some other holidays popular for releasing movies, and subsequent movies opened on their special days!

    July 4th/Independence Day: America’s ‘Freedom Holiday’ is a popular day for releasing movies. Some like 1996’s Independence Day with Will Smith are specifically linked to the holiday, while others seem to be considered good summer fare and released on the 4th weekend, like The Purge: Election Year from ‘The Purge’ franchise; Mel Gibson’s hit, The Patriot; Adam Sandler’s comedies, Click and Grown-Up, and several Tom Cruise-starred films such as War of the Worlds and The Firm.

    Also predictably popular for July 4th releases are superhero and kids-targeted films like a few Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, and Batman movies of their respective franchises and Disney’s Dory, Cars, Lion King, Toy Story, and Tarzan installments. (Source: News Week)

    Memorial Day Movies: Besides films released on or around July 4th, Memorial Day seems popular, particularly as the holiday to kick off summer movies. Some movies with this distinction are: Night At the Museum (#2); Terminator Salvation with Christian Bale; The Hangover (#2); Kung Fu Panda (#2); and two different installments of Pirates of the Caribbean. (Source: AL)

    Thanksgiving Day Films: Another Fall movie release holiday time is Thanksgiving. Some movies released on Thanksgiving pasts include: Toy Story (1995); Back to the Future Part 2 (1989); Moana (2016); and Frozen (2013). (Source: Box Office MOJO)

    Our family saw The Star, a Christmas themed movie, on Thanksgiving Day, 2017 in a Virginia movie theater.

    As well, it seems somewhat predictable that Christmas-themed movies are released on Thanksgiving Day-to get that jumpstart on the season. These include Four Christmases, This Christmas, and Bad Santa.

    Coincidentally, my husband Mat and I saw Christmas With the Kranks on it’s opening day in 2004, which was also Thanksgiving that year, at Universal City in Los Angeles. This trip actually is what sparked our move to Los Angeles the following May.

    How Many People Go to the Movie Theaters on Christmas Day?

    The number of people who visit the movie theater on a typical holiday can be quite big for some holidays. For instance, the holidays I’ve mentioned above are popular for movie-going. Some are slower though, especially holidays mid-week or holidays that are more somber like Veterans Day. Christmas, though, is usually the biggest day of the year for movies! f

    According to the Washington Post, Americans go to the movies on Christmas Day more than any other day of the year. And the MPAA says that 76% of Americans and Canadians two years and older see a movie at the theater at least once and that over 1.24 billion movie tickets were sold in 2017 alone.

    “Generally there are not many businesses open on Christmas Day, and moviegoing is very popular with families looking for an activity they can do together,”

    Dick Westerling, spokesman for Regal Entertainment, the country’s largest exhibitor

    In general, the biggest movie watchers at the theaters are aged 25-39 with 26 of the total of movie-goers. The next biggest group of movie watchers while at the theater is the 40-49 crowd with 15% of the total. These are basically our mid adult groups, parents, and professionals. (Source: Movie Guide)

    So who’s going to the movies on Christmas day?

    • Families make up the largest crowd
    • Single people
    • Married without children
    • Teens with friends
    • Elderly and empty-nesters
    • Basically, just about anyone! It’s the most popular American day!

    Movie theaters provide amusement and a calming environment, in contrast to many other recreation places that drain you of your energy. It’s becoming ‘tradition’ for all Americans (in contrast, the most popular movie day for Chinese is Chinese New Year whereas the most popular day at the movies for French is Labor Day weekend, theirs that is!)

    Ten Traditional ‘Non-Christmas’ Activities For Christmas Day

    And just to provide another view, not every American sees a movie on Christmas Day, nor is movie-watching the main thing those who go to the movies do. Here are some other Christmas day activities people often do, besides going to the movies, that might also seem non-traditional or un-Christmas like.

    1. Eat Chinese food.
    2. Play football.
    3. Travel. (It’s quiet and less crowded at the airport!)
    4. Go to a pub or bar.
    5. Volunteer.
    6. Work (someone has to operate the movie theaters!)
    7. Ski.
    8. Visit with friends.
    9. Hike or camp.
    10. Clean the house/garage or get organized.

    Wrapping Up Movie Theaters On Christmas Day

    To wrap it up, it’s not unusual at all for people to go to the movie theaters on Christmas. In fact, it’s the most popular time in America to see a movie! It’s become so ingrained in our culture that it’s almost ‘Christmas tradition’ and the movie industry has come to rely on it as much as retail does Black Friday!

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