Entertainment & Arts

Coronavirus: Hallmark Channel plans feelgood Christmas movie marathon

Christmas Under Wraps Image copyright The Hallmark Channel
Image caption The Hallmark Channel's festive classics are not just for Christmas

With the world worrying about coronavirus, and millions of people told to hole up at home, many are simply craving comfort and escapism.

For those in the US, the Hallmark Channel has come up with one answer.

It may be March, but the cable network has scheduled a three-day Christmas movie marathon this weekend.

It will dip into its vault of heartwarming festive titles like Marry Me At Christmas, Mingle All The Way, and Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe.

The unseasonal selection begins on Friday with A Christmas Detour and ends on Sunday with Christmas in Rome - and will be interrupted only for the premiere of a new but less chilly romance, In The Key Of Love.

The cable network is available in 79 million US homes.

It comes after some film studios decided to bring forward the streaming releases of their latest releases as more people stay at home.

Frozen II has come to Disney+ three months earlier than planned.

The service launched in the US in November and becomes available in the UK from 24 March.

Many British fans called for that date to be brought forward so they could start watching shows like Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian and films like a remake of Lady and the Tramp sooner.

Image copyright Disney
Image caption Frozen II has come onto Disney+ three months earlier than planned

Warner has brought DC Comics' Birds of Prey forward for home viewing, and on Monday, Universal said movies like Trolls World Tour, The Hunt, The Invisible Man and Emma would be available on demand by the end of the week - much sooner than they would have been after their cinema releases.

In the UK, the BBC has announced it is putting a number of series back on iPlayer, including Spooks, The Missing, Waking The Dead, French and Saunders and Wallander.

And on Thursday, Sky said its children's film Four Kids And It, based on the book by Jacqueline Wilson and starring Russell Brand, will no longer be released in cinemas on 10 April as planned. Instead, it will be available to watch at home on the Sky Cinema platform from 3 April.

While many people are looking for escapism, viewers are also flocking to shows and films that chime with the current crisis.

The 2011 film Contagion, which stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon, is second on the UK iTunes movie chart, behind only Frozen II. And the 2013 film Flu - about a deadly virus in Korea - is top of the trending list on Amazon Prime.

But as more people turn to streaming services and work from home, there are concerns that the demand could put a strain on the internet.

European Union commissioner Thierry Breton spoke to Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings on Wednesday to discuss possible options, such as streaming in standard definition instead of HD.

He said: "Streaming platforms, telecom operators and users, we all have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet during the battle against the virus propagation."

In response on Thursday, Netflix said it would reduce its bit rates in Europe, effectively cutting traffic on its European networks by 25%.

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