Winnipeg continues to be a hallmark location for Hallmark films (and other channels of a similar genre), and 2023’s holiday offerings are no exception. In fact, this guide is my biggest one yet!
Throughout the year fake snow, film crews and all manner of seasonal merriment appears on the streets of the Exchange District, in front of and inside River Heights houses, and even at Portage Place Shopping Centre this year to lay the foundation for Hallmark, Great American Family and Roku Channel films and series that are just waiting to be binged.
While watching this festive fare, you’ll be swept up by the not-so-intricate plot lines that are navigated by handsome leads (oh hey there, Benjamin Ayres!), learn some sage advice from veteran actors about making love work, and perhaps even say, “Hey, that actress from The Young and Restless is totally riding a cart from Bee-2-Gether Bikes!” (At least that’s how I do it while treating myself to a crisp glass of dry Spanish rosé).
All the Christmas movies below were shot in Winnipeg, with many featuring plenty of local talent as Small Town America (or sometimes a big city or a space centre, seriously, read on…) is played by The Peg. I’ve also included locations to look out for, along with literary works that are referenced (which is why we can’t stop watching these, right?).
To help with your viewing, I’ve included air dates while you should note that in Canada, Hallmark films appear on the W Network. Hallmark films can also be streamed on Stack TV and The Global TV app, plus The Hallmark Channel itself can be found in Canada on the FuboTV app, as surely all you English Premier League fans already know.
Available now for streaming
The Santa Summit
The Exchange District was abuzz with Santas who literally filled a good chunk of Albert Street for this modern update on Much Ado About Nothing (trust me, those Hallmark writers are often referencing The Bard) when it was filming in April. The masquerade plot here involves Santacon, which is when people get together on a pub crawl all dressed as Santa. Amongst all these Santas, the two leads –– Jordin (Hunter King from Life in Pieces) and Liam (Benjamin Hollingsworth of Virgin River) –– first flirt without knowing who each other really is (because of the beards!). The film also features a few standout performances from notable local actors Amy Groening (who has appeared in several recent Hallmark and Lifetime productions), Stephanie Sy (who was in last year’s Violent Night as Sugar Plum) and Shakespeare in the Ruins’ artistic director Rodrigo Beilfuss.
As you can see on King’s Instagram, filming took place all over Winnipeg including Tavern United and plenty of shots on the streets of The Exchange where you’ll see a reindeer utilize a novelty Bee-2-Gether Bike to taxi some Santas. During filming, Hollingsworth showed the city some love too as he took in attractions like Thermëa and a Jets game.
The film premiered on November 5 to rave-reviews, and it will continue to be screened throughout the month on December 5, 16, 23 and 31 while you can also stream via the apps listed in the lede.
Never Been Chris'd
Who doesn’t love a rom-com love triangle, particularly went it’s a fun Hallmark movie that is chockfull of innuendo (which surely was intentional). Never Been Chris’d is about two besties –– Liz (Pascal Lamothe-Kipnes) and Naomi (Janel Parrish) –– who come home for the holidays and end up competing for the affections of ruggedly handsome Chris Silver (played by Hallmark regular Tyler Hynes), the former high school heartthrob who has evidently not, “peaked in high school.” Being mainly shot indoors within homes, it’s a tough one to play “spot that Winnipeg location” with, although there is a pivotal scene that takes place at Alena Rustic Italian in Charleswood at the hour mark (you can even see the wood-fired oven and a chef tossing dough), and the big dance at the end appears to be Dakota High School (go Lancers!). I do believe I also spotted some more scenes at the Kings Head Pub and Promenade Brasserie.
This film is also worth the watch for all the risqué puns that involve Mr. Chris Silver’s name (although, just imagine if he spelled it Kris, and he was a sexy Santa… I digress). The dynamic and saucy performances from Parris and Lamothe-Kipnes are a gift too, plus literature majors will appreciate the Twelfth Night parallels.
Never Been Chris’d premiered on November 4 and can now be streamed.
This classic tale that involves a single father falling for a London expat who now runs a phone-in cooking advice service (Chaucer ran a similar plot in “The Squire’s Tale” as you’ll recall), just wrapped up filming here this fall. It stars Emily Tennant (as Abby, the cook) and Niall Matter (as single dad John), along with so much local talent like Michael Strickland, Bombers’ fan Cora Matheson (who was in last year’s Winnipeg Hallmark film Hanukkah on Rye), horror film veteran Mariana Stephenson Kerr, Sydney Sabiston (more on her below), and Hallmark regular Candace Smith. Winnipeg, particularly The Exchange District (look for that classic Hallmark Christmas light tunnel shot utilizing the dray way between King Street and Arthur Street) shines throughout playing the role of Chicago.
Holiday Hotline aired on November 19 and can now be streamed.
Under the Christmas Sky
In this one, Hallmark looks to the stars –– the literal ones that shine at night, along with the projected ones at The Planetarium –– in this space age romance. Most of the action takes place at the National Space Program Centre, which here is played by Red River College’s Manitou a bi Bii daziigae building, which is located on the Exchange District Campus (and wow, does it look great as a space centre). The film features Jessica Parker Kennedy playing Kat, an esteemed astrophysicist whose career as an astronaut has been grounded. To cope, she volunteers at the local planetarium (Hi, actual Planetarium at the Manitoba Museum!), where she is paired up with David (Hallmark-handsome Ryan Peavey) to work on an exhibit that will open on Christmas Eve.
Both the Manitoba Museum and Manitou a bi Bii daziigae truly star in this film, while residents of Morris, MB will be proud to note that the curling scene featuring co-star Andrew Burshell and local actors Sarah Luby and Sydney Sabiston was filmed at the Morris Curling Club. On Sabiston’s Instagram, locals will also note all the rooms used at the Manitoba Museum. As to literary references, umm… let’s say that Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris must have provided some inspiration.
Under the Christmas Sky originally aired in October and can now be streamed.
A Lifelong Love
Originally titled Capturing Love, this film came out back in the summer, so it’s not exactly a Hallmark Countdown to Christmas feature. That said, I’m plugging it to stream because it features so many local actors like the talented Colleen Furlan, who we interviewed this summer at Rainbow Stage when she co-starred in Rent; along with Dutchess Cayetano who was in Rainbow Stage’s Little Mermaid this summer and in The Santa Summit; Michael Strickland; Elena Anciro; and John B. Lowe, who is everywhere in this guide. Anyway, go stream it so you can do what I did and say stuff like, “Hey, that’s McNally Robinson, I love that bookstore!” and “OMG, they are in the Nonsuch Gallery at the Manitoba Museum” and even, “surely that’s Shelmardine Garden Centre. That’s where I got you, Russel!” which I say in the direction of my massive monstera plant that occasionally rustles due to its proximity to an air vent.
Coming soon from Hallmark
Miracle in Bethlehem, PA
“Hey, that’s not Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, that’s Winnipeg!” is what I’m going to yell at the TV when this puppy premieres on Thursday, December 21. Given its not out yet, I can’t give you too much inside intel, but I can say this too stars plenty of local talent including the aforementioned Amy Groening (who plays Frankie), John B. Lowe (who is also an instructor at U of W), and our personal favourite, Angela Narth (who plays Grandma Myrtle), who we once hired to look at these Wanda Koop paintings at WAG-Qaumajuq in a commercial we made for the Canada Summer Games.
The film co-stars Smallville’s Laura Vandervoot as the, “single mother, stuck for the holidays,” who recently posted this fun video about filming in Winnipeg (look at all that fake snow!). While filming, Vandervoot also explored the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, while co-star Benjamin Ayres shared some fun behind-the-scenes content too (is that 529 Wellington?). This one obviously falls under Biblical references in the literature department.
Miracle in Bethlehem, PA, premieres on Thursday, December 21, so set your PVR to W or see the streaming services listed above.
For a full listing of all the new Hallmark Countdown to Christmas films, check out this schedule from W Channel.
Portage Place takes centre stage in The Holiday Shift
The Holiday Shift (Roku TV/CBS studio)
This rom-com series follows Sam (Varun Saranga) as he pursues Tess (Devyn Nekoda; whom was recently in Scream VI) –– “the one who got away” –– amongst a cast of colourful characters that includes comic Jon Dore (who was also just in the city doing stand up). When it was shot this summer, Portage Place Shopping Centre looked dapper in its Christmassy best (it also confused lots of people who came to shop), playing the role of Love, Ohio’s Love Town Centre Mall. In fact, the series was originally titled Christmas in Love, Ohio, so clearly Portage Place stole the show.
The plot of The Holiday Shift runs from Black Friday to Christmas Eve across five episodes, offering plenty of hijinks that utilize spots like the mall’s fountains and its expansive corridors (unfortunately, there are no scenes in the sweet new Pitikwé Skatepark, which just opened a few weeks ago). If you want to see some behind-the-scenes antics, check out actor Michael Delleva’s Instagram (he plays the loveable Deonte), where you’ll see cast members strut their stuff near the RBC Convention Centre, along with having drinks at Langside Grocery (always a great choice) and hitting up Activate Games.
The Holiday Shift premiered on November 17, and can now the whole series is available for streaming on Roku.
Wholesome fare from the Great American Family Channel
A Dash of Christmas
Accomplished Broadway actor and Hallmark regular Laura Osnes stars alongside Christopher Russell in this baking themed number that was originally titled Christmas Bake-Off. Locals Adam Hurtig, Amy Groening and Paul Essiembre all make appearances (the latter two, as you’ll note in this article, were seemingly filming everything in the city this year before the strike), while you must look out for a scene-stealing performance from Winnipeg’s Zoe Fish, who plays Erica. The plot involves Russell teaching Osnes how to bake, which he does in The Exchange District’s Kitchen Sync, a fabulous venue for any sort of event or film.
A Dash of Christmas premiered on November 4 and can now be streamed.
The Jingle Bell Jubilee
This one, which was originally titled The Christmas Regift, was shot in the city from late September into October. It stars Winnipeg’s own Marshall Williams (of Glee fame; here he is exploring The Leaf just because), who I do believe we last saw working in Winnipeg when he starred in Stand!, the Winnipeg-made musical by the late Danny Schur and Rick Chafe, which was an adaptation of Schur’s Rainbow Stage play Strike! Anyway, here he plays a city manager who recruits his childhood friend, played by Erin Agostino, to help rework his town’s Christmas Charity event, all while Agostino is set on setting him up with her bestie (whom, I’m going to assume is played by Kristian Jordan based on the cast listing). The film also features Winnipeg’s own John B. Lowe, as you would now guess.
The Jingle Bell Jubilee premieres on December 3.
Meet Me Under the Mistletoe
Hallmark regular leading man and locally based actor Paul Essiembre (he’s been in so many Winnipeg productions, including 2021’s Nobody –– along with several other actors in this guide –– and numerous Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre plays) co-stars here as Frank Greer alongside Winnipeg’s Jan Skene (who plays Kelly Greer), as a couple who need to sell their house before Christmas. But this is no ordinary couple; one of them (or maybe both, it’s honestly tough to tell in the description) is a renowned botanist who grows –– you guessed it! –– mistletoe.
Given the original title of this film was A Christmas Commission, I don’t have much more info to go on as to where it was shot in the city, but the two main relators are played by Sarah Fisher (from Degrassi: The Next Generation, who plays Eva) and Simon Arblaster (Jeff). As to literary references, see Batman #181 (June 1966) but replace Batman and Robin with real estate agents.
Meet Me Under the Mistletoe premieres on December 9.
Should you be binging Hallmark (or Lifetime and Great American Family) films this December and you see a scene that is also surely shot in Winnipeg, chances are you will find that film in our past guides, including 2022, 2021, 2020 (featuring inside intel from actor Melissa Elias) and 2019's.