Editor’s note: This story was originally published Dec. 18, 2022.
Utah is famous (infamous?) for its fry sauce, its snow, and its pronunciation of the word “mountain.” But many people don’t know about the Beehive State’s booming film industry — more specifically, the number of holiday movies filmed in our lovely Deseret.
Last month marked Lindsay Lohan’s
triumphant return to the screen with the Netflix film “Falling for Christmas.”
Watching “Falling for Christmas” feels like snorting powdered peppermint — a little too much seasonal spirit even for the most yuletide-enthused among us. While the production value was better than most of the holiday films hobbled together in a few weeks, the story of a big city woman falling in love with a flannel shirt attached to a generically handsome man is as tired as parents on 2 a.m. Christmas morning, halfway through assembling a toy kitchen and a foosball table.
But whether ”Falling for Christmas” is good or not is completely irrelevant. It’s holiday-themed and it’s available in December so people are going to watch it. Like beasts of the savannah are primally pulled to the waterhole, so too are we, the American consumers pulled to jingle belly content from mid-October to the new year. And indeed, the film had more than 31.2 million views in its first four days on the platform.
I assume at least 3.38 million views came from Utahns hoping to catch a glimpse of Salt Lake City and Park City, the two cities where “Falling for Christmas” was filmed. Viewers may have recognized The Goldener Hirsch and Midway’s Blue Boar Inn, barely transformed into “The Belmont,” a ritzy hotel that Lindsay Lohan’s fictional father owns, and the “North Star,” a humble lodge owned by the blond love interest (and either his mother or mother-in-law?) — a plot point among many that is never fully explained.
It’s not just Lindsay who spent some time in our neck of the woods. Actors and crews for the Hallmark Channel, Discovery Plus, Great American Family and Food Network all descended on our great state this year to film “Destined at Christmas,” “A Cozy Christmas Inn,” “Holiday Wars,” “Haul Out the Holly,” “Christmas with the Campbells,” and “The Holiday Stocking.”
Every year there seems to be a larger crop of these seasonal cinematic snacks filmed in Utah, thanks to the state’s tax incentives, the diversity of geography, the proximity to Los Angeles, the anywhere USA look of many of our rural towns, our right-to-work policies, and the robust film talent and studios here.
With the ever-increasing number of holiday content made in our state, most residents have at least some exposure to one of these productions.
One time I was hiking my dog up in the mountains and about half a mile in we ran into an entire hallmark movie set during filming. It’s a pretty deserted area so my dog was off leash and had run ahead and ruined their take! There was fake snow, xmas decor, and a retro camper!— Mary Christmas (@MaryLeishman) December 7, 2022
In the summer of 2007, a film crew set up shop at my neighbor’s home and for weeks it was all anyone could talk about. Some residents on our street even set up lawn chairs across the street to watch the filmmaking, a process known for moving at a glacial pace. Every day we’d walk past a full film crew and actors dressed in down coats in 100+ degree weather,
There’s something thrilling about the glitz and glamor of The Cinema in your hometown. There’s a sense of fame by proxy. Stories you can dine out on for years. “Did you know ‘A Very Country Christmas’ was filmed on my street?” you can say at parties.
Had a funny experience with one being filmed in my home town Brigham years ago. Half of our town submitted headshots to be in it. Since nothing goes on there the other half of the town came to watch! It was so funny to run into neighbors and chat while they filmed it.— sophie holmes (@spophiesophie) December 8, 2022
Some residents are lucky enough to be recruited as extras or even cast for speaking parts. But the novelty can quickly wear off for those who may have been led to believe filmmaking is quick or painless.
When I was 2, my dad, 4 yr old sister and I were recruited to be extras in a movie being filmed at Tracy Aviary. We were told we would be extras riding on the Ferris wheel and it would be about a 15-20 minute thing. 2 HOURS LATER my dad was still on w/ screaming toddlers.— Emily (@heyitsEmH) December 7, 2022
got paid $100 for a 12 hour shoot wearing winter clothes in 100+ degree weather <3— nya ♡♡ (@nyyyyyyyya) December 8, 2022
And the undertaking isn’t always a happy surprise for those who live in and work near filming locations. No one knows where or when, exactly, a film crew on a shoestring budget might pop up and throw some tinsel around, place some cotton batting meant to look like snow on the ground, tape some paper snowflakes on windows and thrust a neighborhood into chaos.
Welcome to Midway, UT. Last May, I was driving to get my morning Diet Coke at 7-Eleven & the road was blocked off because there was a fake car accident. There was a Christmas tree splayed between a generically good-looking couple fake fighting while someone threw snow at them.— Lindsey Leavitt 🇺🇦 (@lindseyleavitt) December 7, 2022
Nowhere is safe. Just as many of our small towns can be stand-ins for any town in the country, so too, can our downtown spaces look like any big city (if you squint).
I sometimes show up at my office building to find random Hallmark movie sets on the campus. One time it was a carnival. This past fall, it was an entire Christmas village. Evidently the property owner has an agreement with their production company? It's fun to watch, though.— SJ (@TheSJDickey) December 7, 2022
They used to regularly film outside my office in SLC. About once a year it would magically transform into Christmas in the middle of April or September.— Jenna Anderson (@thepotofpetunia) December 8, 2022
For the most part, the people of Hallmark/Lifetime/GAC/Netflix and the suits who work downtown can coexist without issue.
But every once in a while, there’s a head-on collision.
So it went a few years ago when a film crew took up residence in a prominent corporate office in downtown Salt Lake City. The employees who work in the building had not been informed that a forty-person production would be using their offices for dressing rooms and the lobby for craft services. Many of those whose offices weren’t used for wardrobe were locked out of their working spaces. No one could access the elevators.
An FYI email sent to the company about the production quickly devolved into name-calling, demands for the eradication of the current production and any future productions, and one executive threatening to toss the actors out the door.
The issue was eventually resolved with no actors being tossed onto the streets of Salt Lake City. But the incident proves mileage may vary in terms of the excitement one may feel when Hallmark comes to town.
But we know one thing for sure — they’ll be back again next summer, so pass the peppermint dust.