Brendan Penny and Lacey Chabert cosy up in “Pride, Prejudice and Snowmen,” one of dozens of Hallmark TV-movies shot annually across Canada. Credit: ©2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Shane Mahood

Happy to be in The Globe and Mail this weekend thanks to an assignment from The Canadian Press. I’m in with a story on one of the biggest employers of Canadian TV talent across the country — Hallmark.

The family friendly American cable brand, owned by Crown Media, spends millions annually north of the border shooting around 70 TV-movies a year, many of them holiday themed. Many are produced in Vancouver, Kamloops and Victoria as well as in Ontario in Hamilton, North Bay, Sudbury, Parry Sound and the Sioux. They shoot a lot of Christmas movies, and they shoot most right now in the summer.

Hallmark has zigged while others in cable have zagged, steering clear of dark dramas and anti heroes and serving up a kinder, gentler view of American life. That they have found it in Canada has more to do with our lower dollar and some aggressive tax incentives than our sparkling vistas and locales, although Hallmark has been happy to turn places such as Burnaby and Pembrooke into main street, USA.

Every year at the Television Critics Association Hallmark throws an enormous and very festive gala inside a giant tent erected on the well manicured lawns of the Tournament House in Pasadena, which is basically Stately Wayne manor with college football trophies.

Lynda Boyd

There are so many Canadians at the annual TCA Crown Media press tour gala it should be held at a hockey rink. Among the ones I ran into earlier this year were former Motive co-star Brendan Perry (a regular on Hallmark’s Chesapeake Shores), Luke MacFarlane (“Just add Romance”), Colin Ferguson (a veteran of 10 Hallmark movies), Cameron Mathison (“Home & Family”), Benjamin Ayres (seen last on Canadian TV on Burden of Truth and featured on Hallmark’s“Chronicle Mysteries”), former Republic of Doyle favourite Lynda Boyd (“Snow Coming”), Paul Campbell (who played opposite Dave Foley in the CTV sitcom Spun Out and does holiday movies for Hallmark such as “A Godwink’s Christmas”) and Montreal-native Jennifer Finnigan (“Welcome to Christmas” being her most recent Hallmark title).

Most often, Hallmark TV-movies shot in Canada will have an American cast as the No. 1 player. Americans such as Candice Cameron Burke, Treat Williams, Debbie Gibson, Wendie Malik, Kellie Martin, James Denton, Lacey Chabert and Kellie Pickler were all part of the scene last February at the Hallmark TCA party. Even 80-year-old Oscar-winner Jon Voight, who plays a very dark role in the Showtime series Ray Donavan, is a Hallmark guy, having approached them with an idea that has led to a regular association.


Read what the Canadians have to say about earning the Hallmark seal of approval. It’s a distinction that gets them invited over and over again as part of the wholesome fare that is catnip to millions of viewers, primarily women, across North America — especially at Christmastime.


  1. My mom and I switch to this genre every year in late November to early January. And the best thing is, my two oldest daughters (age 10 and 8 now) watch with us. These movies have the romance my mom and I love to drink in and the Christmas-joy my kids are captivated by. Great family viewing. And 90% of the women I know are watching these movies, it’s crazy. I wonder what some of the viewership numbers are. I will admit, my mom and I are both cord cutters so we may not have watched the movies by ethical means on an android box but some holiday romance movies did appear on Netflix and we watched those. If Corus Entertainment actually had a streaming service, we would subscribe to it, especially my mother because when she had cable, W Network was her favourite channel. Corus Entertainment is really missing the boat here not having a stand-alone streaming service. Some of their channels, such as Global, have streaming apps but they are only available to cable subscribers and episodes are only available for 7 days after they air. They should have stuck with Shomi a little longer. With channels like W Network, Global and and History, and YTV, Treehouse and Teletoon for the kids content, they have a ton of good content to compete for a streaming service. If they don’t launch something now they will be left behind or they can partner up with one of the big American streamers that are launching soon. NBC Universal in particular, could use more content. Disney and Warner have plenty. I wonder what Warner, which has dubbed their streamer, as HBO Max, will do about their deal with Crave TV for all the HBO content. Hallmark Channel, which is an independantly-owned channel (I didn’t even realize those still existed) could easily form a partnership with Corus for streaming as they currently have a partnership with W Network already for content. I’m gonna be very interested to see what happens in coming months. Everybody needs to be I the streaming game. Everybody.

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