Edmonton

Unwrapping Edmonton's 'cheesy' Christmas movies

A surprising number of movies have used Edmonton as a backdrop to scenes of holiday cheer.

'Edmonton has everything you need to make these types of films'

Rob Lowe spent a day in Edmonton filming The Christmas Blessing, the follow-up to the TV movie Christmas Shoes. (Rotten Tomatoes)

It wasn't exactly Hollywood North, but Edmonton once carved out a niche in the world of Christmas movies.

A surprising number of movies have used the city as a backdrop to scenes of holiday cheer.

But the Edmonton Christmas movie scene has hit a lull in recent years.

Christmas Cupcakes, a 2018 made-for-TV movie, is the only Christmas movie filmed in Edmonton in the last decade.

Director Dylan Pearce sees potential for a comeback and says he's working to bring more made-for-TV Christmas movies here.

"Edmonton has everything you need to make these types of films," Pearce said. "We don't usually need fake snow."

Christmas Cupcakes was filmed in several Edmonton restaurants and bakeries, including Doughnut Party on 119th Street and Duchess Bake Shop on 124th Street.

The movie is about two sisters who enter a baking contest to save their family business, which gives the two a chance to rediscover "the meaning of family and friendship."

The movie will be released on the W Network in Canada in 2019. In the meantime, here is a list of Edmonton-made Christmas movies you can watch.

The Christmas Blessing (2005)

This made-for-TV movie is a follow-up to another made-for-TV movie, The Christmas Shoes. It features a cameo by Rob Lowe, who starred in the first film. Neil Patrick Harris, hearkening back to his Doogie Howser days, plays a doctor who visits his hometown after a rough episode at his hospital.

It was filmed prior to Harris's career comeback when he took on a starring role in the hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother. 

Viewers might recognize shots of downtown Edmonton and scenes at the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre. Local actor Jesse Lipscombe plays a doctor alongside Harris. He said acting in an Edmonton-made Christmas movie was a special gift.

"It allowed me to say, 'No, I'm not a doctor, but I played one on TV,'" Lipscombe said.

"There's so much cheese in Christmas movies," he said. "I am a pretty cheesy guy, so a Christmas movie is my kind of thing."

He also noted that Lowe flew in by helicopter to film his one scene, then flew back to Los Angeles the next day.

Santa's Slay (2005)

This comedy-horror movie about a vengeful Santa on a killing rampage was filmed in Edmonton and Wetaskiwin. Pro-wrestler Bill Goldberg stars as an out-of-control Claus "just trying to spread a little yuletide fear." If you are not a fan of Christmas cheese, this film may be more your speed.

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Christmas in Wonderland (2007)

This film prominently features scenes from West Edmonton Mall and many locals can lay claim to making cameo appearances as extras in the background. The story follows the late Patrick Swayze as a hapless dad forced to take his children shopping. His kids stumble on a bag of money, go on spending spree, and get caught in the cross-fire of a cops-and-robbers feud.

This film had a theatrical release, but there were a few stumbles along the way. The company struggled to get distribution in Canada and the movie was widely panned by reviewers.

Christmas Town (2008)

A TV Christmas movie that follows a classic formula: a disillusioned woman visits a small town and is forced to embrace holiday cheer. In one scene, the lead character, Liz, tells a prospective love interest "I'm not a Scrooge," but he remains dubious. Will he melt her cold heart? You'll have to watch to find out.

Some scenes were filmed at West Edmonton Mall, but the bulk of the movie was shot in Burnaby and Maple Ridge, B.C.

The Twelve Days of Christmas Eve (2004)

This TV movie is a Groundhog Day for Christmas fans. The plot follows a businessman, caught up with work on Christmas Eve, who has 12 chances to relive the day and get things right. Molly Shannon plays a nurse. One scene features the Army & Navy store on Whyte Avenue.

Honourable mentions

Snow Day (2000)

In this theatrically released movie, a gang of kids face off against an overzealous snowplow driver. The plot doesn't centre around Christmas but film critic Roger Ebert pointed out that one of the inspirations for the film is the holiday classic A Christmas Story — though Snow Day was much less enjoyable.

In another Christmas nod, Snow Day stars National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation actor Chevy Chase. Something for Edmonton viewers to watch out for: local kids made cameo appearances sledding down a snowy hill in the Bonnie Doon neighbourhood.

'Misunderstood' (2013)

The Christmas-themed iPhone commercial was filmed in the Highlands neighbourhood. The short, about a boy who won't turn away from his phone, has a heartwarming twist. The spot won an Emmy for outstanding advertising.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ariel Fournier

Associate Producer

Ariel Fournier is an associate producer at CBC Edmonton. You can reach Ariel at ariel.fournier@cbc.ca.

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