"Miracle on 34th Street" was released on May 2, 1947, making it a surprise summer movie about Santa Claus. The marketing didn't reveal it had anything to do with Christmas.
On the original poster, the marketing team put lead actor, Edmund Gwenn -- who certainly looked like Santa -- in a simple suit. They featured Gwenn's image at a fraction of the size to Hollywood stars Maureen O'Hara and John Payne.
The trailer didn't even show footage from the movie. Instead, it had non-related famous actors giving the film rave reviews, making it seem like "Miracle on 34th Street" -- a movie where the whole premise revolves around Santa -- was a straightforward romantic comedy:
Darryl Zanuck, the studio head at 20th Century Fox at the time, thought that opening the movie during the Christmas season would hurt its box office chances. So the studio sunk the references to it being a Christmas movie and released it in the summer, knowing that they could still have it in theaters across the country come Christmastime, as well.
Film historian Robert Osborne explained to The Huffington Post, "In those days, we didn't have the Internet. We didn't have television to promote a movie. We didn't have anything." Osborne continued, "So what usually happened is in the summer, if they had a big picture, like a Christmas movie, it would open in New York in the non-holiday season. So that by the time Christmas came around, five months later, then it had played off in the big cities, but it was then playing in all the small towns across America [becoming] a Christmas release then."
Osborne added that the studio didn't have high hopes for the movie, which also may have contributed to the marketing approach, claiming, "It was not an important film when it came out. I don't think they had a great deal of hopes for it. But it caught on with the public and as we know it's become a classic ever since."
The sort of strange promotion strategy did end up working out somehow and the movie made about $3 million on a $630,000 budget.
Osborne, who is promoting Fathom Events' small theatrical re-release of "Miracle on 34th Street," also said that he remembered "It's a Wonderful Life" having a similar plan.
Although "It's a Wonderful Life" went for a December premiere to be eligible for the Academy Awards, the movie didn't show up in public theaters until January. One of the trailers -- shown above -- similarly buried Christmas details and made it seem like another romantic comedy.
The team pushing "It's a Wonderful Life" may not have been as cavalier about burying the very holiday premise of the movie, but they too put out a poster that revealed hilariously nothing about the holiday connection.
Who knows, maybe next year a couple of the anticipated blockbusters will end up being secret Christmas movies.
Maybe "Batman v Superman" is actually "Batman v Superman v Santa." The newest Marvel movie, "Captain America: Civil War" seems to feature every superhero ever, why not St. Nick, as well? Maybe Captain America was Santa Claus all along.
You'll just have to spend your money at all the movies to find out, before someone like us inevitably spoils the surprise.
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