Susie Abromeit thought somebody was pulling her leg when she was told her new Hallmark Channel movie premieres in July.
The timing seemed way off. The movie’s title, after all, is “A Perfect Christmas.”
“I was surprised at first,” the actress says. “Then I thought, ‘Well, why not?’ Sometimes I find myself playing Christmas music in summer. It puts a smile on my face and makes me happy. “This is kind of the same idea.”
Dillon Casey, Abromeit’s leading man in “A Perfect Christmas,” didn’t expect a summer premiere either, but he also has warmed to the programming strategy.
“A good movie is something you can enjoy any time of the year,” the Dallas-born, Canada-raised actor reasons. “Take ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.’ It’s funny whenever you watch it. Or ‘Die-Hard.’ It’s set at Christmas, too, but it’s a great action picture whenever you watch it.”
So why not a Christmas movie in July? Why not a whole block of Christmas movies in July?
That’s what Hallmark Channel is doing. The network, which airs an avalanche of holiday-themed movies every November and December, is presenting a 10-day “Christmas Keepsake” programming stunt that began Friday.
It amounts to more than 100 hours of feel-good Hallmark Channel originals from Christmases past (airing 1-9 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. weekends) and the premiere of “A Perfect Christmas” as a sort of tree topper (8 p.m. July 16).
On a cynical note: The programming also offers an opportunity for the network to promote the new batch of Keepsake Ornaments that arrive this week in Gold Crown Hallmark shops around the country — a not-so-subtle reminder that the shopping season is just around the corner.
Several of the network’s favorite stars will turn up more than once:
Candace Cameron Bure is the leading lady in “Christmas Under Wraps,” “A Christmas Detour” and “Let It Snow.” Lacey Chabert stars in “Family for Christmas,” “A Christmas Melody,” “Matchmaker Santa” and “A Royal Christmas.” Alicia Witt is in “A Very Merry Mixup,” “I’m Not Ready for Christmas” and “Christmas at Cartwright’s.”
It’s too early to say whether “A Perfect Christmas” will become a perennial Hallmark Channel favorite, but Casey thinks it has the potential to do so.
“It’s a genuinely funny, charming, cute movie,” he says. “Add the whole theme of Christmas and you can’t go wrong.”
It’s the story of Steve and Cynthia Faber, a newlywed couple who want to have an unforgettable first Christmas together.
They invite family members from out of town, many of whom don’t get along. Then Steve, an idealistic lawyer, gets fired for taking an ethical stand. Then Cynthia discovers she’s pregnant. Each decides to keep the news secret from the other.
Put this all together and it’s a perfect recipe for disaster.
“I think people will have a good time,” Casey says. “There’s also a nice theme of, if you love each other you can get through anything: These two people have big secrets that they’re afraid to tell the other _ even though, because they love each other, if they’d just open up, everything would be OK.”
Snow was still on the ground in northern Ontario in April when the movie was filmed, so it was easy for the actors to get into the holiday spirit. It made them remember some of their own Christmas family traditions.
“Christmas is my favorite holiday,” says Abromeit, whose credits include recurring roles in “Chicago Med” and “Jessica Jones.” “For me, it’s about the family reuniting, the snow, the Christmas tree, the giving and receiving of presents. It’s incredible when those pieces all line up.”
Casey, formerly of the series “Nikita,” remembers a gift-exchange tradition called Yankee Swap.
“Everyone picks a number and then in that order they open a Secret Santa present,” he says. “So if you’re No. 1, you open first. Then No. 2 has the option to open a present from under the tree or steal No. 1’s present. Then No. 3 has the option to open or steal. And so on.”
In some households, this game is known as “Thieving Secret Santa” or “Nasty Christmas.”
“We actually stopped doing it last year,” Casey said. “It was causing some problems.”