Christmas Trivia - It's a Wonderful Life
Why is It’s a Wonderful Life considered a Christmas movie?
It's A Wonderful Life isn't about Christmas, and there aren't any direct references to Christmas within the movie, other than that an important scene occurs on Christmas Eve. Nonetheless, it is watched mostly at Christmas time, and is a considered a favorite Christmas movie, along with A Christmas Carol.
Despite initially performing poorly at the box office when it was released in 1946, the film has come to be regarded as a classic and is a staple of Christmas television around the world. Why?
The movie was not particularly well-known or appreciated in 1974, when its copyright was not renewed, and the film's images and sound passed into the public domain. Television stations erroneously believed that the film's copyright lapse meant they could show it without paying a royalty, and for many years they did so repeatedly during the Christmas season.
The repeated airing not only reintroduced the public to the film, but also cemented its association with Christmas, because that's when it was shown. By the 1980's, it was considered a holiday favorite.
However, the underlying story from which the movie was derived, The Greatest Gift, remained under copyright, and in 1993, the owner of The Greatest Gift successfully asserted its copyright to prevent the unlicensed showing of the movie in theaters and on television, and blocking unlicensed home video sales.
Today, NBC is licensed to show the film in the US, and traditionally airs it on Christmas Eve.
If It's a Wonderful Life had remained under copyright continuously, it would not be considered a Christmas movie today, and most likely only film buffs would know about it.