A guide to finding Christmas movies on the big screen
The holidays are everywhere you look – from local parks to your living room to shopping mall shelves, and screens big and small. Yes, even with monoliths like "Star Wars," "Frozen II" and (*shudders*) "Cats" coming this season, movie theaters have still saved a little room for the Christmas spirit, whether it's old classics, new favorites or even some buried gems hauled out from deep in the cinematic attic, once forgotten but now on glorious display.
So if you've burned through all the seasonal streaming options on Netflix and you've seen enough Hallmark films to predict the entire plot of the latest movie before the main character grabs her first cup of hot chocolate, here's where you can find festive cheer on Brew City big screens this season.
In addition to the two major holiday releases this season – the Brit rom-com "Last Christmas," currently showing, and the upcoming horror reimagining of "Black Christmas," in theaters starting on Dec. 13 – many Marcus Theatres locations will ring in the most wonderful time of the year with a holiday classic retro series, featuring six Christmas favorites for only $6 each. The lineup includes:
- Dec. 6-12 – "Elf," "White Christmas" and "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (the live-action Jim Carrey edition)
- Dec. 13-19 – "It's a Wonderful Life," "The Polar Express" and "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"
For specific daily showing times, visit Marcus Theatres' website. And as an added Christmas-time bonus, some Marcus locations are also screening the 2017 animated film "The Star" – about a collection of animals heading off to the first Christmas, featuring the voices of Ving Rhames, Keegan-Michael Key, Christopher Plummer, Steven Yeun, Oprah, Gina Rodriguez, wait seriously Oprah(?), Kelly Clarkson, Aidy Bryant, Mariah Carey and what is going on with this cast list!? Anyways, the movie screens at noon at several Marcus cinemas on Dec. 7-8; for specific locations, visit the website.
Plus, if you're looking for another holly jolly big-screen experience, select Marcus theaters will screen the 1945 Judy Garland classic "Meet Me in St. Louis" on Sunday, Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. and Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. It may not look like a Christmas movie at face value, but the season-hopping story features a whole vignette set around Christmas time – including a vintage performance of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" from Garland. So don't overlook this low-key holiday classic, either!
The AMC Mayfair will let the mall it's attached to cover all of the holiday spirit this season, apparently, as the Christmas cinema selections are currently pretty scant outside of the two major holly jolly (and surprisingly twisty) studio flicks: "Last Christmas" (OK, maybe not that surprisingly twisty in this one's case) and "Black Christmas." Fun fact: The original "Black Christmas" from 1974 was directed by Bob Clark, the future director of "A Christmas Story." Quite different takes on Christmas – though both horrifying in their separate ways, I suppose.
The AMC Mayfair, however, will host screenings of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" from Dec. 6-12 in honor of the holiday classic's 30th anniversary. And watching that back on the big screen is the best gift one can receive – other than getting Frank Shirley brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and looking him straight in the eye to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing ... you get the picture.
If you prefer your Christmas spirit scuzzy, plague-ridden, splattered in plasma and decked in experimental plastic surgery, well, you have very oddly specific holiday tastes ... but also, the Oriental's got your back with "Rabid"! One of body-horror legend David Cronenberg's early formative works, "Rabid" follows a young woman who starts a zombie invasion after getting post-motorcycle accident skin surgery and suddenly having a craving for blood, turning her victims into ghouls. Hate it when that happens. And it's all set around Christmas – so including this isn't that big of a stretch! (OK, it is.) Santa Claus even makes a cameo! Maybe don't tell the kids what happens to him, though ...
The Cronenberg movie, a part of the Oriental and Milwaukee Record's late-night Cinema Hooligante series, screens on Dec. 6-7 at 11:15 p.m., so knock back some coffee and get ready to get into the red-and-green seasonal spirit. (Emphasis more on the red in this movie's case.)
The Neighborhood Theater Group may have some of the smallest theaters in the city (but also some of the best, in this humble writer's opinion), but they've gone big on holiday spirit this season with multiple movies and multiple screenings spread across this month of merriness – all for just $5. Here's the lineup:
- "White Christmas" – Dec. 13 at 4:30 p.m. and Dec. 15 at 11 a.m.
- "It's a Wonderful Life" – Dec. 21-25 at 11 a.m.
- "White Christmas" – Dec. 6-8 (4 p.m. on Dec. 6, 11 a.m. on Dec. 7-8)
- "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" – Dec. 13-15 (4 p.m. on Dec. 13, 11 a.m. on Dec. 14-15)
- "Elf" – Dec. 6-8 (4:30 p.m. on Dec. 6, 11 a.m. on Dec. 7-8)
- "Silent Night, Deadly Night" (WMSE Friday Night Freak Show) – Friday, Dec. 13 at 9 p.m.
- "A Christmas Story" – Dec. 13-15 (3:15 p.m. on Dec. 13, 11 a.m. on Dec. 14-15)
- "It's a Wonderful Life" – Dec. 21-25 at 11 a.m.
In case that wasn't enough, the Avalon has a few special side screenings for bonus holiday spirit. Teaming up with Milwaukee Record and Lakefront Brewery, the Bay View cinema will celebrate a "Murray Christmas" on Dec. 7-8 with $5 screenings of the '80s cult classic "Christmas Carol" reconfiguring "Scrooged" and "Stripes" – which isn't a holiday movie but IS a good time nevertheless. "Scrooged" and "Stripes" will screen at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, on Saturday, Dec. 7, before flip-flopping times the next day.
The Avalon's not done, either, as on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 10 a.m., the neighborhood theater will show the new animated "Grinch" complete with breakfast feasts for kids and adults, $1 small holiday popcorns and a visit from Santa! He survived "Rabid" after all! For more details on menu options and ticket prices, visit the Avalon's website.
Lastly, "Galaxy Quest" will show on Friday, Dec. 6 at 9:15 p.m. at the Times. It's not a Christmas movie, but it felt like something you should know about.
The Corners of Brookfield-based dinner theater will also get into the holiday spirit with its Flashback Cinema selections for the month of December, all of which are Christmas classics new and old. They include:
- "Home Alone" – Dec. 4
- "White Christmas" – Dec. 8 and 11
- "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" – Dec. 15 and 18
- "It's a Wonderful Life" – Dec. 23-24
All of these selections screen at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Silverspot will join Marcus Theatres aboard the throwback trolley by screening "Meet Me in St. Louis" on Dec. 8 and 11 at 4 p.m. in honor of the film's 75th anniversary. Again, if you're a Christmas crazy, come for the Christmas Eve segment – and if you're a grinch, well, there's also a whole chunk of the story told around Halloween, so there's something for you too.
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