Classic Christmas movies hit the big screen

Erica Hobbs
Special to The Detroit News

If Plymouth is any indication, southeast Michigan takes its Christmas movies very seriously.

Around 1,000 people protested in front of the town’s Penn Theatre in October following Paramount’s refusal to license “It’s a Wonderful Life” to them, which had become a tradition for the small, nonprofit theater since 2007. Paramount changed its mind the following day, and Penn was able to add the classic movie to its six-film Christmas series.

Penn is one of the region’s biggest players in the Christmas movie game, joined by Detroit’s Redford Theatre and Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater, plus main-stream theaters like Emagine Entertainment and MJR.

"Elf," starring Amy Sedaris, James Caan and Will Ferrell

While not the only theater to offer “It’s a Wonderful Life” and other classics, Penn prides itself on its location in downtown Plymouth, offering movie-goers the chance to walk through the town’s picturesque park and streets, reminiscent of “It’s a Wonderful Life’s” fictional Bedford Falls, according to Ellen Elliot, the theater’s executive director.

“The trees are lit with the tree lights, and there’s snowflake lights on the lamp posts, and there’s Christmas trees in the park that are lit,” she said. “It’s just the right place to see movies like this, because when the movie’s done, you continue with that feeling when you walk out the doors.”

Historic Redford Theatre features a live organist playing Christmas music ahead of each show, as well as its elaborate 8 by 20-foot model train set, created by Jacob Malbouef. It also includes its annual Holiday Mystery Movie Dec. 11, which showcases an older Christmas film – usually something from the 1930s or 1940s – that is revealed day-of.

"It's a Wonderful Life"

“We try to show movies that are a little bit more obscure but are really good Christmas movies that might not play elsewhere,” said theater volunteer John Monaghan.

Michigan Theater has its popular sing-along screening of “White Christmas” among its line-up, as well as a series of free Sunday afternoon films. The Henry Ford Museum is offering dozens of opportunities to see “The Polar Express” on its giant screen. MJR is giving moviegoers a free ticket to one of its holiday classics with the donation of five canned goods during its drive on Saturday. Farmington Civic Theater is doing something similar, inviting guests to donate new toys or canned or boxed food.

Other popular Christmas films presented this year include “Elf,” “Love Actually,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Home Alone,” “A Christmas Story” and “Miracle on 34th Street,” among others. Check out locations and schedules below.

Emagine Entertainment: various locations; $8-$11 Nov. 20 and 23, various times: “The Polar Express” Nov. 27 and 30, various times: “White Christmas” Dec. 4 and 7, various times: “Elf” Dec. 11 and 14, various times: “Scrooge” Dec. 18 and 21, various times: “It’s a Wonderful Life” Dec. 18 and 21, various times: “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”

Farmington Civic Theater: 33332 Grand River Ave., Farmington; free, new toys and canned good donations are encouraged Dec. 3, 10:30 a.m.: “The Polar Express”

The Henry Ford: 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn; $11 Nov. 25-27, 1 and 5 p.m.: “The Polar Express” Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 17-23, 26-30, Jan. 1: 1 and 4:45 p.m.: “The Polar Express” Dec. 24 and 31, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.: “The Polar Express”

The Maple Theater: 4135 W. Maple Road, Bloomfield Hills; $12 Dec. 18, 3:30 p.m.: “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Michigan Theater: 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; free to $16 Nov. 25, 7:30 p.m.: “White Christmas” (sing-along) Nov. 27, 1:30 p.m.: “Elf “ Dec. 2, 9:30 p.m.: “Love Actually” Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m.: “Love Actually” Dec. 4, 1:30 p.m.: “The Shop Around the Corner” Dec. 11, 1:30 p.m.: “A Christmas Story” Dec. 18: 1:30 p.m. “The Muppet Christmas Carol” Dec. 23, 7:30 p.m.: “It’s a Wonderful Life”

MJR: various locations; $5 Nov. 25-Dec. 1, various times: “The Polar Express” Dec. 2-8, 10 a.m., 12:30 and 3 p.m.: “The Grinch” Dec. 9-15, 10 a.m., 12:30 and 3 p.m.: “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” Dec. 16-25, various times: “Elf” Dec. 18, 3:30 p.m.: “It’s a Wonderful Life” Dec. 21, 7 p.m.: “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Penn Theatre: 760 Penniman Ave., Plymouth; $5 Nov. 25-26, 7 p.m.: “Home Alone” Nov. 27, 5 p.m.: “Home Alone” Dec. 1-3, 7 p.m.: “It’s a Wonderful Life” Dec. 4, 5 p.m.: “It’s a Wonderful Life” Dec. 8-9, 7 p.m.: “A Christmas Story”Dec. 10, 7 p.m.: “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947)Dec. 11, 5 p.m.: “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947)Dec. 16-17, 7 p.m.: “Elf”Dec. 18, 5 p.m. “Elf” Dec. 22-23, 7 p.m.: “The Polar Express”

Phoenix Theatres: various locations; $1 Dec. 9-14, 10 a.m., 12:15 and 2:30 p.m.: “The Polar Express”

Redford Theatre: 17360 Lahser Road, Detroit; $5 Dec. 2, 8 p.m.: “Love Actually” Dec. 3, 2 p.m.: “The Polar Express”Dec. 3, 8 p.m.: “The Nightmare Before Christmas”Dec. 9, 8 p.m.: “White Christmas”Dec. 10, 2 and 8 p.m.: “White Christmas”Dec. 11, 2 p.m.: holiday mystery movieDec. 16 and 17, 8 p.m.: “It’s a Wonderful Life”Dec. 17, 2 p.m.: “The Bishop’s Wife”