Reviews and recommendations are unbiased and products are independently selected. Postmedia may earn an affiliate commission from purchases made through links on this page.
While 2022 saw a record-breaking bumper crop of holiday films shot in Ottawa, this year, just half as many — eight, compared to 16 — of the feel-good flicks were made in the city and nearby charming small-town locations.
Stéphanie Davy, the Ottawa Film Office’s senior manager, communications and operations, says the drop is due to 2023’s two lengthy entertainment-industry strikes — the May-to-September Writers Guild of America strike and the July-to-November American actors’ union (SAG-AFTRA) strike. They curtailed filmmaking and TV shoots across North America and beyond.
In recent years, more and more holiday films have been shot in Ottawa because the city has several competitive advantages, including a range of locations from big-city to small-town. The low-budget films destined for specialty channels or streaming services are typically shot between April and October, in some cases forcing actors to swelter in winter clothing during the summer. Fake snow abounds on sets.
But Davy says that some networks that shot holiday movies in Ottawa in 2022 didn’t shoot any in 2023 due to the mid-year strikes. In 2023, there was also a drop in TV shows shot in Ottawa, she adds.
This year’s tally of eight holiday films is also down from tallies of 12 in 2021 and 10 in 2020.
That said, Davy says that if you also consider non-holiday movies shot in Ottawa in 2023, the tally is about 30 films, roughly equal to 2022’s overall number.
Davy says that despite a drop in locally shot productions in 2023, her office still expects that at least $42 million will have been spent locally by the productions in 2023, compared to $57 million in 2022 and $41.4 million in 2021.
Just as there were fewer made-in-Ottawa holiday movies this year, fledgling actor Tim McKee found less holiday-film employment.
Last year, McKee worked as a background performer — what used to be called an “extra” — in five holiday movies.
In the film A New Diva’s Christmas Carol, McKee, a former member of the Canadian Reserve Force, was a main character’s bodyguard. In All I Didn’t Want For Christmas, McKee played a newspaper stand salesman. McKee especially appreciated that role, since the 58-year-old retail director at an Ottawa digital agency was a sales representative for this newspaper before the pandemic.
But this year, McKee was in just one holiday film. In the just-released Catch Me If You Claus, McKee does a walk-across in an office setting.
But McKee and Davy are optimistic about next year.
Davy says she’s hoping for an “eventful” 2024 for Ottawa’s film industry, with not only an increase in holiday movies shooting in Ottawa, but also “some bigger projects.”
McKee says he’s only getting more serious about acting. He’s now represented by AMTI Management. He’s ordering books on acting and is going to take online acting courses.
“Twelve months ago, this was not on Tim’s bingo card of life to get into acting, but it’s sort of taken off,” he says.
Holiday movies made in Ottawa in 2023
A Royal Christmas Crush
Synopsis: Ava accepts the opportunity of a lifetime to work at the Royal Ice Hotel, which leads her to a surprise whirlwind romance with the most important guest of all, the Royal Prince himself.
Release date: July 8 on Hallmark (U.S.) and the W Network (Canada). Available to stream in Canada on StackTV and on the Global TV App.
Catch Me If You Claus
Synopsis: An aspiring news anchor finally gets her big break on her station’s Christmas morning newscast. But then she captures an intruder in her home, wearing a red suit and claiming to be Chris, Santa’s son, who is on his first mission.
Release date: Nov. 23 on Hallmark (U.S.) and Nov. 25 on CTV Life (Canada).
Laughing all the Way
Synopsis: When ghost writer and aspiring comedian Aubri Wilson is placed in charge of the Christmas variety show, she worries she might not have what it takes to pull it off. Then famous Hollywood comedian Mike Baxter shows up. Their journeys collide and they fall hopelessly and hilariously in love.
Release date: Nov. 26 on Lifetime (U.S.) and Nov. 29 on W Network (Canada).
A Christmas Serenade
Synopsis: When Jeremiah returns home for the first time in years to play a gig with his band, he is recruited to take over as the minister of music for the annual Christmas Jubilee at his home church, reigniting the feud, and romance, between the pastor’s daughter Willow.
Release date: Dec. 2 on OWN (U.S.).
Yes, Chef! Christmas
Synopsis: When culinary school instructor Alicia Gellar, who formerly worked under chef Bobby, is invited to compete in the city’s annual Kringle Cook Off, she learns a family secret that could change everything. While there, she forms a connection with Kringle protégé, Logan.
Release date: Dec. 10 on Lifetime (U.S.).
An Ice Palace Romance
Synopsis: A journalist faces old fears when she returns to her hometown ice rink to cover a story. With the help of the owner and his young daughter, she begins to reevaluate her life’s purpose.
Release date: Dec. 14 on Hallmark Movies Now (U.S.) and Dec. 22 on CTV Life (Canada).
The Christmas Detective
Synopsis: A former beauty queen-turned-private investigator finds her calling, reunites with an old flame, and spreads Christmas spirit.
Release date: Dec. 16 on OWN (U.S.).
Synopsis: A group of old college friends gather for Christmas at their recently deceased friend’s mountain cabin as old resentments, secrets and unexpected romance blossom.
Release date: Dec. 23 on OWN (U.S.).
Source: Ottawa Film Office
What to do in Ottawa in December: Plenty of holiday cheer to go around in music, plays and more
‘It’s all about love,’ singer-pianist Laila Biali says of her Canadian holiday-music tour
Want to stay in the know about what’s happening in Ottawa? Sign up for the Ottawa Citizen’s arts and life newsletter — Ottawa, Out of Office — our weekly guide to eating, listening, reading, watching, playing, hanging, learning and living well in the capital.