Growing up, there was not a Christmas movie I enjoyed more than “A Christmas Story.” I’ll admit, I had never even heard of the film before TBS began its annual “24 Hours of A Christmas Story” marathon in 1997. It just wasn’t something on my radar. Having accidentally come across the film that first 24-hour marathon, I was sucked in by the excitement of the marathon itself and the quest to watch the movie as much as I could in an entire 24-hour period. Then something amazing happened. It turned out the movie was really good, too!
“A Christmas Story” was originally a small independent film made in 1983 that had very little fanfare for several years until it earned a “cult-classic” status and rabid fan following in the early 1990s. Turner Broadcasting had maintained ownership of the film’s broadcasting rights and, starting in 1991, began airing the film increasingly on its networks TBS, TNT, and TCM. In 1995, it was aired over the 3 different channels a combined 6 times from December 24th to 26th.
Those 6 viewings were so successful that in 1996 Turner increased it to 8 separate broadcasts.
However, in 1997, due to the movie’s ever-increasing popularity (and rising merchandise sales), TNT began airing a 24-hour marathon, officially titled “24 Hours of A Christmas Story.” The marathon would begin either at 8pm Eastern on Christmas Eve and run for a total of 12 airings. In 2004, when TNT switch to a predominantly drama television format, TBS took over the marathon.
It was estimated that in 2002 that 38.4 million people tuned in at one point or another. In 2008 that estimate increased to 54.4 million.
The film was so popular that in 2014 and 2015, Turner decided to broadcast the marathons on BOTH TBS and TNT! They staggered the showings one hour apart so that you wouldn’t have the same exact scene on both channels and could pick up at any point on either network. This was also done so that both channels were not in the commercial break at the same time.
For whatever reason, the dual marathon was not run on both channels in 2016 and only aired on TBS. It returned to TNT in 2017 and has been on both channels since.
After widespread internet rumors in 2018 claiming TBS canceled the marathon, Turner (and TBS/TNT) issued statements assuring fans that the marathon indeed lived on. You could understand, then, when TBS was very slow to publish the schedule for 2019, “A Christmas Story” fans were worried once again. This year, for 2020, the two networks published the marathon schedule in early November, assuring fans that the annual tradition would live on once again.
One of my favorite activities around Christmas growing up was the “24 Hours of A Christmas Story” marathon. After the first few years of trying to watch EVERY SINGLE showing, I was older, and life had gotten quite a bit busier for all of us. My family adapted, and our goal switched from watching the full marathon to catching the entire movie once… but not in a full sitting. It’s a fun little game we still play, where we piece together a complete movie over the 24 hours by tuning in at different times. It doesn’t even need to be in order, as long as we don’t miss anything.
You can catch 24 straight hours of this beloved Christmas movie starting 8:00 PM Eastern on December 24th on TBS. The marathon runs through Christmas Day, and the final airing of “A Christmas Story” is 6:00 PM Eastern on the 25th. The marathon will start on TNT at 9:00 PM on December 24th, running through the final showing at 7:00 PM on Christmas Day.
Be careful, or you’ll shoot your eye out!