Crown Media, parent company to the Hallmark Channel, knows how to throw a spectacular party. This year’s theme of “Christmas in July” meant that a glamorous Bel Air mansion was selected has the hosting venue, which with its jaw-dropping back terrace view of Los Angeles meant that they could showcase a 60-foot Christmas tree trimmed with ribbons, bows and twinkling lights. There was also a giant Santa’s sleigh with packages and a yummy selection of holiday treats. Then just inside the mansion’s opulent walls was a ballroom decked out like a Winter Wonderland of white with even more tantalizing confections to tempt even the most jaded of the Hollywood press.
But by far the most stunning aspect of the event was the sheer number of recognizable celebs from all of Hallmark’s landmark series CEDAR COVE and WHEN CALLS THE HEART, as well as their well-known movies and holiday films. Both CEDAR COVER and WHEN CALLS THE HEART debuted with a big splash on Hallmark and have been picked up for second seasons. CEDAR COVE returns for Season 2 on Saturday, July 19th and WHEN CALLS THE HEART returns with is second season in May 2015.
Making appearances at the star-studded event were Erin Krakow and Daniel Lissing, stars of WHEN CALLS THE HEART, along with producer Brian Bird and Andie McDowell and Dylan Neal from CEDAR COVE. All seemed thrilled that their shows have been so warmly received and were happy to talk about the fun they have working on the shows — though Erin laughing noted she is mighty relieved to get out of the corsets at the end of each day while filming. Erin and Daniel also cutely posed for a quick photo in front of the Christmas tree, which will hopefully find its way online for all the enjoy, as executive producer Brian Bird beamed from the sidelines. He is clearly was a proud-papa of the success of WHEN CALLS THE HEART and the attractive stars that headline the show.
Other notable appearances included Meghan Ory (ONCE UPON A TIME and INTELLIGENCE) and her husband John Reardon (THE KILLING, CONTINUUM, WHEN CALLS THE HEART), who both have upcoming Hallmark movies this year. Meghan’s new film “The Memory Book” co-stars Luke McFarlane and makes its debut on Saturday, July 26th; and John’s film “The Christmas Secret” will air during the 2014 holiday season. One fun point of interest is that John is studying for his Masters in theater in Ireland for the next 10 months, as he is eager to pursue more theater opportunities and is looking forward to stretching and enhancing his skills for the challenge. Meghan is just happy to have some time to travel and wants to explore Ireland before tackling her next big project, which could be a Western penned by former co-star Josh Holloway if they can get the scheduling to work out.
Returning this year with another Hallmark film is Alicia Witt (“A Very Merry Mix-Up” and “Backyard Wedding”), who can currently be seen in the play “Reasons To Be Pretty” in August 2014 at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. With a career that spans works from JUSTIFIED to FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS to more film roles than should be possible for such a young thespian, Alicia has a passion for performing that propels her to constantly seek out opportunities both diverse and intriguing. When proposed that it would be fun to see her on the Showtime series MASTERS OF SEX, Alicia just laughed and said her former co-star Teddy Sears had said the same thing and she would love that opportunity if it came to fruition.
Alan Thicke (“Let It Snow”) took a few minutes to chat-up his “The Bronx Bull” co-star Alicia Witt and then congratulated his “A Cookie Cutter Christmas” co-star Erin Krakow on the success of her Hallmark series WHEN CALLS THE HEART. Alan was quick to admit that he finds the digital world of media a bit of a mystery, but is eager to embrace it and get more involved with it.
Then surprisingly on hand to promote his new Hallmark series was Jon Voight (RAY DONOVAN), which will make its big debut later this year about a father with three daughters who challenge his old-fashioned beliefs at every turn. Hallmark is recruiting top talent from across the entertainment landscape to launch a continuing stream of fun family fare films and television shows.
In fact, in 2014 alone, Hallmark has 18 original movies — 12 of which will air during their infamous Christmas Countdown season — and another 50 more in development. One thing is certain, Hallmark knows it has carved out one of the most successful family-oriented niches for television shows and movies that virtually all other television networks have abandoned. Their desire to provide films and television shows that the entire family can watch is enviable and admirable.
With nitrogen-infused, hand-churned ice cream to top off the night, Hallmark celebrated its successes and cheered for future of its upcoming projects. If the sizzle-reel previews were any indication, they will have much more to toast in the year to come.