Op-Ed | Top 10 Christmas movies powering New York’s economy

Clipper in a Christmas hat on background.
Photo via Getty Images

Whether or not you’ve encountered movie production around New York City, you’ve likely enjoyed some of the many Christmas movies set in Gotham. Filming in a city of nine million is often a nuisance; blocking streets, crew milling about, lights, noise, inconveniencing residents and businesses alike.  However, this holiday finds New Yorkers grateful that the economic engine of film and television production has restarted, because the entertainment strikes dealt a financial blow to many. Approximately 14,000 people directly employed by film companies in the city lost their jobs as a result of the SAG-AFTRA strike. NYC is a major production hub and an additional 185,000 people rely on production work in support companies. That resonates over the entire state; Governor Hochul recently stated, that “$35 billion in economic activity over the past decade,” has been generated in economic benefits given to the state as a result of films and television shows shooting in New York.

Tourists flock to the city for end-of-the-year holidays. Whether dining, shopping, attending parades or seasonal holiday shows; one highlight of a wintertime visit to the city includes visiting locations that are highlighted in holiday movie scenes, often patronizing various businesses nearby. This is yet another powerful effect of media production on New York’s economy.

Here is a list of the Top 10 Christmas Movies featuring various New York City locations. Box office numbers here represent only a fraction of the film’s earnings, additional revenue has been generated from streaming, cable, basic cable, broadcast television, videocassette, and DVD, as well as merchandise sales; increasing exponential returns over the years since its release. 

Miracle on 34th Street, (Worldwide Box Office $46 million), is an enduring story of the hope of Christmas, about a man claiming he’s Santa, being arrested, then set free in a Christmas miracle. Locations include the New York Supreme Court, Central Park, Macy’s and Herald Square. 

Elf, (Worldwide Box Office $225m), is a misfit story of a human raised as an elf in the North Pole, travelling to Manhattan to be reunited with his father. Iconic spots; Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, Central Park, and the UWS. 

Rom-com Serendipity, (Worldwide Box Office $78m), inspires lovers to trace the path of the characters in the film to sip frozen hot chocolate at the namesake restaurant Serendipity on East 60th Street, ice skate in Central Park, visit Bloomingdales and the Waldorf Astoria. 

The Apartment, (Worldwide Box Office $25m), is a dark holiday tragicomedy romance starring young Shirley MacLaine with Jack Lemmon as he strives to move up in the company by lending his apartment for sordid office affairs; featuring the Majestic Theater, Financial District and the UWS.

When Harry Met Sally (Worldwide Box Office $93m), is a rom-com where two friends resist each other, only to meet up periodically, ultimately winding up together. Locations include the George Washington Bridge, Washington Square, Loeb Boathouse, Metropolitan Museum and Katz’s Deli where the infamous fake orgasm scene occurred.

Trading Places (Worldwide Box Office $90m), features the comedic hijinks of Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd literally trading places in society from top to bottom as the result of a bet by two rich jerks. Set in Philadelphia, the film’s dramatic climax occurs in NYC inside the Comex Commodities Exchange Center in the World Trade Center.

The Family Man (Worldwide Box Office $125m), features Nicholas Cage playing a career-driven bachelor in New York City who wakes up one Christmas morning married with kids living his own suburban nightmare. Locations include Park Ave, Midtown Manhattan, and skyline views from New Jersey.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, (Worldwide Box Office $359m), extends the franchise’ssuccess in the story of a mix-up that places a young boy in NYC where he stays at The Plaza, enjoying holiday sights and solving a crime. Locations include the Queensboro Bridge, World Trade Center, Battery Park, Radio City, Empire Diner, Central Park, UWS, and Rockefeller Plaza,

Scrooged (Worldwide Box Office $60m), is an updated retelling of Dickens’ Christmas Carol with Bill Murray as a tyrannous TV Executive who has a change of heart. Locations include Park Ave, 5th Ave, Central Park South, Lincoln Plaza, Long Island City and Midtown.

The Godfather (Worldwide Box Office $270m), isn’t a Christmas movie but shows off Gotham in holiday lights as the head of a mafia family bequeaths his empire to his youngest son, and everyone suffers the consequences. Locations include Radio City, the late department store Best & Co on 5th Ave, Staten Island, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx.

Stephen R. Greenwald has been professionally involved in the motion picture and related industries for over 40 years as an attorney, film financier, corporate executive, producer, and consultant, including as CEO of three public companies in the film business. Greenwald is Of Counsel at the law firm Garson, Segal, Steinmetz, Fladgate LLP.

Paula Landry is a writer, producer, and film business and media consultant who is interested in disruptive business models. Landry crafts feature films and episodic content, business plans, budgets and schedules, as well as branded content for Fortune 500 companies and non-profits. Landry is the president of IdeaBlizzard Productions and author of Scheduling and Budgeting Your Film: A Panic-Free Guide and Applying Entrepreneurship to the Arts: How Artists, Creatives, and Performers Can Use Start-up Principles to Build Careers and Generate Income.

They are the co-authors of The Business of Film: A Practical Introduction.