98% of Christmas films will be repeats

ONCE the whole family would gather round the television set at Christmas to watch a big budget movie at home for the first time.

But the era of the big blockbuster Christmas movie is becoming a thing of the past, with new research yesterday showing that 98 per cent of TV films this festive season will be repeats.

Both terrestrial and satellite channels will be showing fewer premieres than ever before - with only 16 first runs out of 533 films shown over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

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ITV will be reshowing the 2000 Jim Carrey film How The Grinch Stole Christmas on Christmas Day, while 2006 "chick flick" The Holiday will be reshown on Christmas Eve.

The Richard Curtis film Love Actually takes pride of place in ITV's Boxing Day schedule, despite several previous TV outings, while reruns of Casper and Jurassic Park are also among the festive offerings.

The Scotsman's TV critic Paul Whitelaw said: "For the vast majority of people in the country Christmas used to be the first time you could watch a film you had seen and enjoyed in the cinema. It was the first chance to watch films like Indiana Jones, or Star Wars or ET and it really was a big deal.

"But these days by the time a film is seen on television it has been available for ages on DVD or on demand services. Every child is likely to have seen a big movie like Harry Potter several times before it appears on television."

• Analysis: Festive premieres have gone with the wind

The film premieres on television schedules this year are mostly family movies and cartoons - with the exception of the blockbuster Avatar, which is available on Sky Premiere and will be shown six times over the Christmas period.

The big Christmas Day premiere on the BBC is Shrek the Third with independent movie Stranger Than Fiction seen for the first time on Channel Five.

Christmas Eve movies on the BBC will include the latest movie in the Narnia series: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and Cars on BBC1 and The Fox and the Child on BBC2.

Sky Premiere viewers will also be able to see the first network showing of Fantastic Mr Fox, St Trinian's 2 and Up in the Air.All these movies will be repeated six times over the Christmas period.

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A spokesperson for the BBC preferred to concentrate on the selection of brand new programmes the network would be airing over the Christmas period, including Come Fly with Me, the new project from Little Britain's Matt Lucas and David Walliams.

An STV spokesperson said movie premieres were still an important part of Christmas and New Year scheduling, and their movie highlights include network premieres of I Am Legend and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Helen Cowley, editor of Lovefilm.com, which carried out the research, commented: "We are disappointed to see so many repeats in the Christmas TV line-up. It would be good to see more new films on the box this year."

According to the survey, the five main channels are showing 16 per cent fewer films than they did last year.