'Elf' and 'Christmas Vacation' Make Holiday Magic for AMC

Elf-Publicity Still-Photofest-H 2018

AMC made a play for a piece of the holiday-movie market this year, and it has paid off handsomely.

In September, the cabler, home to darker fare like The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul, acquired rights to Christmas movies Elf, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and The Polar Express — which had long been part of Freeform's "25 Days of Christmas." The three films were to become linchpins of a programming stunt AMC calls "Best Christmas Ever," which includes about 50 movies and specials.

The movies have lived up to that billing. In the first two weeks of the event, which started Nov. 26, primetime airings of feature films on AMC have drawn 40 percent more viewers than the same timeframe in 2017: 989,000 vs. 708,000 a year ago.

The growth has been fueled in large part by Christmas Vacation and Elf. Eight of the 10 most watched movies on AMC for the entire year are Christmas movies that aired as part of the "Best Christmas Ever" branding. Showings of Christmas Vacation and Elf lead the way, each drawing highs of 1.5 million viewers.

The growth has been even bigger in AMC's core demographic of adults 25-54, with gains of 76 percent (477,000 viewers vs. 271,000 a year ago). Nine of AMC's 10 top-rated feature films for 2018 in that demo have aired in the past two weeks.

AMC's gain has been Freeform's loss. The Disney-owned channel's average feature film in the past two weeks has drawn 910,000 viewers without Elf and Christmas Vacation in the (near-constant) rotation, down 36 percent from 1.43 million in 2017.