Archive for the 'News Stories' Category

SouthPark Mall marks 30th anniversary of the premiere of ‘A Christmas Story’

November 18th, 2013 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio – Thirty years to the day after it made its debut in theaters across the country, the movie “A Christmas Story” was once again on the big screen in northeast Ohio.

SouthPark Mall in Strongsville sponsored a special showing of the film to raise money for A Christmas Story House Neighborhood Restoration Project.

Jim Bomba of Old Brooklyn said he’s seen the film thousands of times but never on the big screen. He watches each time for something new.

“I’ll watch things and I’ll see my old high school music teacher conducting the marching band in the Higbee’s opening scene,” he said. “Or, you know, seeing a child in the windows, an extra, and that’s someone I knew growing up.”

While Jim is an expert on all things “A Christmas Story,” Gladys Petrie of Strongsville is not.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the whole movie at one time,” she said decked out in her Christmas sweater excited to see the film for the first time.

The screening marks the beginning of a busy period marking the 30th anniversary of the film’s release that will include a convention Thanksgiving weekend at Cleveland’s Renaissance, a 5K & 10K run and the opening of the musical “A Christmas Story” at Cleveland’s West Theater, and the play at Cleveland Play House returning after a three-year absence starting Nov. 29.

“The city of Cleveland has embraced us and loved this whole idea so much, it’s fantastic,” said Angela Dickerson, COO of A Christmas Story House and Museum. “We couldn’t ask for anything more.”

 

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A Christmas Story,’ filmed in Cleveland, premiered 30 years ago

November 15th, 2013 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

CLEVELAND – “A Christmas Story” premiered 30 years ago this weekend.

Today it’s a holiday classic but in 1983, it was considered a bit of a flop.

“Basically it was pulled out of theaters in a few weeks,” said Steve Siedlecki, executive director of A Christmas Story House & Museum .

“A Christmas Story” faced stiff competition during that holiday season: “Scarface,” “Silkwood,” “Terms of Endearment” and “Amityville 3-D” were among other films competing for movie dollars that year.

With a budget of $4 million, it took in $16 million in its short run. Flop, you say?

“Nobody was ready for another Christmas movie,” he said. “It got most of its money earned right here in Cleveland from people who wanted to go see it from being filmed here.”

The film, set in Indiana in the forties, chronicles Ralphie Parker’s struggle to get his idea of the perfect Christmas present – a BB gun.

Locations on Public Square , inside the former Higbee’s department store and outside of a home on West 11th and Rowley Avenue (one block south of Clark Avenue) were used in filming.

The flagpole scene outside of a school and the Chinese restaurant were among locations filmed in Ontario, Canada.

The Cleveland winter that year was very mild. Snow-making machines from Boston Mills and Brandywine ski resorts were put into service to make snow. Soap suds were used in some scenes on Public Square to take the place of snow.

The film faced a very short schedule, shot in early 1983 and released in November of the same year.

Director Bob Clark loved the project and wanted to make sure it was made.

“It was his baby,” said Siedlecki. “He really loved the movie. He loved the storyline, so he really tried to get it out there, filmed and released in the same year.”

Actor Peter Billingsley attended the film’s local premiere at the Richmond Theater in Cleveland’s eastern suburbs.

Its introduction to the small screen is where Clark’s creation would make its way into Americana.

“It really wasn’t until it came onto cable television that it really gained its popularity with VHS tape at the time, going on to the cable and eventually the 24-hour marathon,” Siedlecki said.

Turner Broadcasting would run the movie continually for 24 hours on one of its channels each holiday season.

Warner Brothers took advantage of the film’s resurgence to launch a special collection for the film’s 20th anniversary in 2003.

“It takes on a life of its own. Not only do more people want to watch it on TV but it’s become a tradition to come and visit now too,” Siedlecki said.

One of those fans, making a pilgrimage to Cleveland to pay homage to the film, is Patricia King.

“I watch it all day long on Christmas Day and once it starts on Christmas Eve and evening while I’m wrapping presents,” said Patricia King. “I have a DVD and I put that in before it comes on all day.”

King, from Baltimore, visited A Christmas Story House & Museum with her husband. She said she was the envy of her friends and family, many of whom wanted her to buy items at the museum’s store.

Brian Jones, from San Diego, bought the house used for exteriors of the movie and opened it for tours in 2006.

The home was renovated to mimic the interior scenes from the movie.

Siedlecki said the Tremont neighborhood attraction employs as many as 25 people in peak seasons with almost the same number working in a nearby warehouse handling orders for merchandise, such as the famous leg lamp.

“Thousands and thousands of movies have been released, but to be able to go and see where that movie was filmed and visit its museum is a very unique experience.”

A new expanded gift shop, across from the Parkers fictional home, opened three months ago.

Last August, the “Christmas Story” complex of museum, store and home began a new schedule, now open seven days a week.

A Christmas Story Convention will take place at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland Thanksgiving weekend.

The following weekend, the Christmas Story 5K/10K run will take place. Runners will run to the house and to locations from the movie. Participants are asked to dress as their favorite character from the movie. The race takes place Saturday, Dec. 7 at 9 a.m.

Tours of the home are scheduled every 30 minutes

Read more: http://www.newsnet5.com/dpp/entertainment/a-christmas-story-filmed-in-cleveland-premiered-30-years-ago#ixzz2l0pWVIew

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‘A Christmas Story’ turns 30 and Cleveland plans to celebrate with a convention, cast visits, plays, tours – and discounted leg lamps

November 13th, 2013 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

Cleveland, Ohio – “You’ll shoot your eye out.” It’s hard to believe it’s been thirty years since we first heard little Ralphie Parker’s mom utter these immortal words in “A Christmas Story.” But it has. And three decades after the classic 1983 film based on the Depression-era memoirs of Jean Shepherd hit the big screen, Ralphie, his Old Man, his longed-for Red Ryder BB Gun, leg lamps and the movie have entered the lexicon of Christmas classics.

Perhaps nowhere more so than in Cleveland, where much of the movie was filmed and a museum in the house used in the film opened in 2006.

The museum, which has drawn more than 300,000 visitors since opening, drew 24,000 last December alone – and plans to top that number this year.

“Everybody can relate to this movie,” says Angela Dickerson, Chief Operating Officer of the museum, of “A Christmas Story’s” ever-growing appeal. “Whether you wanted something so badly, like Ralphie and his Red Ryder, or whether your old man is like the Old Man.

“It’s nostalgic, it takes you back to when times were hood and there weren’t all these problems. It’s a good family movie”

In honor of the 30th anniversary, A Christmas Story House & Museum has big plans, from an expanded Thanksgiving weekend convention to a new gift shop, cast appearances, a “Little Piggy” luncheon and more. But that’s not all.   Two area theaters are also planning productions in honor of the Big 3-0.

Here’s how Cleveland plans to celebrate:

A Christmas Story House & Museum,open seven days a week, year-round, 3159 W 11th Street in Cleveland’s Tremont area, 216-298-4919 orinfo@achristmasstoryhouse.com. Tours, gift shop and more. Plus, “take your best shot (without shooting your eye out, of course) at the BB gun range in the House’s back yard!” Hours: Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Tours of the house run every 30 minutes. Regular admission tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $6 for children (ages 7 to 12) and free for children ages 6 and under. More info:www.AChristmasStoryHouse.com

A Christmas Story Convention, Friday, Nov. 29 and Saturday, Nov.30: Based at the Renaissance Hotel on Public Square – seen in the movie! – this year’s convention will feature city and house tours, appearances from the actors who played Randy, Flick, Scut Farkus, Grover Dill, and the two Evil Elves; a book-signing with “A Christmas Story Treasury” author Tyler Schwartz; a BB gun range in the backyard of the house; and “Mrs. Parker’s Little Piggy Luncheon,” the chance to enjoy a traditional meatloaf, mashed potato and red cabbage meal, just like Mrs. Parker made, while dining with the cast members. Tickets for the convention and luncheon available atwww.achristmasstoryhouse.com. Hotel discounts available for attendees, too.

“A Christmas Story” 5K, 10K and Leg Lamp fun runs, Dec. 7, Public Square:Register for the first annual run at www.achristmasstoryhouse.com. Get a nice hot cup of Ovaltine when you cross the finish line. Really.

Grand opening of a new 3,500 sq. ft. A Christmas Story House & Museum Gift ShopNov.29: Storewide Black Friday specials between the hours of 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., including 30 percent off leg lamps!

A Christmas Story, the Musical,” Nov. 15 to Dec. 8: Near West Theatre presents Cleveland’s first-ever production of this new musical based on the classic 1983 movie. Call 216-961-6391 for tickets or www.nearwesttheatre.org.

A Christmas Story, the Play,” Nov. 2 to Dec. 22: The Cleveland Play House brings back one of the most popular shows in Cleveland Play House history. Expect to see footie pajamas.

“With it being an anniversary year, we wanted to do something special this year,” concludes Dickerson. “We wanted to make Cleveland a destination for all things Christmas Story.”

Mission accomplished.

 

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“A Christmas Story” House & Museum Celebrates 30 Years

November 11th, 2013 by Ralphie

link to original article

“You’ll shoot your eye out!”

Well maybe not your eye, but possibly your feet as you run in the first-ever “A Christmas Story” 5K/10K race on Saturday, December 7 in Cleveland, Ohio — in the city that is home to the actual house the classic movie was filmed in.

The race, which features a run to the home where the movie was filmed, helps commemorate the 30th anniversary of the iconic film. Three decades later, the film has established an almost cult-like following of fans. The sale of the original house on eBay to a fan led to the restoration and the creation of the “A Christmas Story” House & Museum in 2006.

Each year thousands visit the home and museum to have a glimpse of that famous leg lamp (the original lamps used in the movie all were shattered during filming). They can also see the bathroom where star character Ralphie, played by Peter Billingsley, had his mouth washed out with soap. And catch a glimpse of the Red Ryder BB Gun wrapped and ready for Ralphie to find on Christmas morning.

In addition to the house and museum, there is also a gift shop on site. The “A Christmas Story” House and Museum is open year-round but gains special attention during the holiday season. Hours of operation along with ticket prices and tour times are available online. Street parking is free of charge.

Registration for the 5K/10K race runs through December 4, 2013. For more details on the race that will take you down “A Christmas Story” memory lane, visit the event online. Additional events to help commemorate the 30th anniversary of the film include a Blu-ray and DVD release and a special convention on November 29 and 30.

The convention will feature a variety of “A Christmas Story”-themed events and appearances by members of the original cast! There will also be an auction for an exciting VIP package that includes a stay in the actual house from the movie!

The original Higbee’s department store, also used in filming of the movie, has been home to downtown Cleveland’s own tourism bureau, Positively Cleveland, since 2007. So stop by and step through those same doors Ralphie did on his way to visit Santa Claus – and pick up some visitor guides to help you seek out attractions during your remaining stay in Cleveland!

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A Christmas Story House hosts Christmas in July event to kick off movie’s 30th anniversary celebration

July 16th, 2013 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Christmas Story House & Museum will host a Christmas in July event at the iconic house used in the filming of “A Christmas Story” movie. The kick-off event will formally announce all upcoming events planned for the 30th Anniversary Celebration of A Christmas Story.

The kick off for the 30th Anniversary Celebration of “A Christmas Story” will take place on Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 10 a.m. Main events will commence on the front porch of the A Christmas Story House & Museum.

There will be special appearances from The Cleveland Indians mascot, “Slider” (dressed as Santa) and other special guests. As a bonus, participants will get a sneak peek at the new and expanded A Christmas Story House & Museum Gift Shop.

“A Christmas Story,” released in November 1983, is a holiday classic that tells the story of Ralphie Parker, a 1940’s 9-year-old who pulls out all the stops to obtain the ultimate Christmas present. The movie is based on the childhood memoirs of humorist Jean Shepherd, and portions were filmed in Cleveland in the early 1980s.

The Christmas Story House and Museum is located at 3150 W. 11th St., Cleveland. Hours are Thursday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sundays noon-5 p.m. and closed Monday-Wednesday. Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for children 7 to 12 and $8 for seniors.

Events planned for the anniversary celebration include:

Cleveland Indians A Christmas Story House & Museum Night – Progressive Field, Wednesday, Sept. 25. The Cleveland Indians play the last home game of the season against the Chicago White Sox at 7:05 p.m. Brian Jones, owner of A Christmas Story House & Museum, will throw out the first pitch to start the game. Order tickets through the promotional link:http://www.achristmasstoryhouse.com/index.php/indians-game/.  Special Offer Code: Christmas.

30th Anniversary “A Christmas Story” Convention – Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 29 and 30. Convention will feature appearances by original cast members, author signings, tours of the A Christmas Story House & Museum, bb-gun range, and much more! Convention schedule of events and locations can be found atachristmasstoryhouse.com.

Mrs. Parker’s Little Piggy Luncheon – Grand Ballroom, Renaissance Hotel, Saturday, Nov. 30. An exclusive opportunity to enjoy a traditional meatloaf, mashed potato and red cabbage meal, just like Mrs. Parker made, while dining with cast members from “A Christmas Story” movie. Tickets are limited and will be available for purchase Sunday, Sept. 1.

Grand opening of a newly expanded A Christmas Story House & Museum Gift Shop. After over a year of construction and renovations, the A Christmas Story House & Museum will open its new 3,500 square-foot gift shop to the public.

Cleveland’s Winterfest 2013 – Downtown Cleveland, Sunday, Nov. 30. This all-day street festival and celebration kicks off the holiday season in Cleveland.

“A Christmas Story” at The Allen Theatre at PlayhouseSquare, Friday, Nov. 29 to Sunday, Dec. 22. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the beloved film, we bring back one of the most popular shows in Cleveland Play House history in a sparkling new production. Go to clevelandplayhouse.com .

“A Christmas Story, The Musical” – Near West Theatre, Nov. 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, Dec. 1, 5, 6, 7, 8. Near West Theatre presents a multi-cultural, intergenerational cast in A Christmas Story, the Musical. Cleveland’s first-ever production of this new musical based on the classic 1983 movie which recently was honored with 3 Tony Award nominations. Performances at 3606 Bridge Avenue in Cleveland’s Ohio City. Call 216-961-6391 for tickets or buy online at nearwesttheatre.org.

A Christmas Story Run 5K/10K – Cleveland, Dec. 7. Be a part of history for the first A Christmas Story Run, to celebrate this classic movie’s 30th anniversary. Proceeds will benefit the A Christmas Story House Neighborhood Restoration Project, located Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.

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Cast of A Christmas Story: Where Are They Now?

November 23rd, 2012 by Ralphie

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5 spots for Christmas movie magic

December 20th, 2011 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article by Sarah LeTrent

The Parker family's house in

(CNN) — If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas — much like the one Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen used to know at the Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, Vermont — the humbug of the matter is: Neither the inn nor the town exist.

You better not pout, though. There are still a few of the season’s favorite film locales that you can visit in real life:

The Parker family’s house in “A Christmas Story”

If you find yourself in the vicinity of Cleveland and a fanatic of the 1983 cult holiday classic “A Christmas Story,” make a pit stop at the Parker family’s house, which is open for public tours complete with a museum and gift shop directly across the street.

If fawning over the “I-can’t-put-my-arms-down” snowsuit and the “Oh fuuuuuudge!” family Oldsmobile isn’t quite enough movie magic, visitors can buy leg lamps at the gift shop for their very own “soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.”

Or if you’re feeling extra rebellious, Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot range model air rifles are also available.

Bedford Falls from “It’s a Wonderful Life”

The town of Bedford Falls in the 1946 classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” may have been fictional and created on soundstages for filming in Encino, California, but the folks in Seneca Falls, New York, claim their tiny mill town was director Frank Capra’s inspiration for the cinematic community. (He is believed to have visited the town in 1945.)

Visitors are encouraged to celebrate the film’s ties each December by taking part in a movie-themed walking tour and judging the similarities for themselves.

Stand on the steel Bridge Street Bridge, similar to the one that Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, leapt from in the movie to “save” his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, or stroll down the streetlamp-lined main street.

If you feel like making a weekend in New York’s Finger Lakes region, opt to stay in one of the 48 rooms in the newly opened Hotel Clarence, named after Bailey’s guardian angel.

Fans can own a piece of \
Fans can own a piece of “Home Alone.” The house featured in the movie is for sale.

The McCallister residence from “Home Alone”

While you can’t go through all Buzz’s private stuff (or inside the house for that matter, unless you’re in the market for a new home), you can do a drive-by like your favorite Wet Bandits, Harry and Marv, of the McCallister residence approximately 15 miles north of downtown Chicago in the Winnetka suburb.

The home, built in the 1920s, is listed for sale at $1,950,000, and still features the recognizable staircase just inside the front door in case indoor sledding is one of your favorite pastimes.

Serendipity restaurant from “Serendipity”

Part holiday movie, part romantic comedy, this 2001 film starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale opens during the peak of the holiday shopping rush with the then-strangers attempting to buy the last pair of black cashmere gloves at Bloomingdale’s.

After initial sparks, the smitten characters, both in relationships, spend the rest of the evening together in New York.

The title of the movie itself is equal parts definition of serendipity — Merriam-Webster lists it as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for” — and the New York restaurant where the two fated lovers partake in frozen hot chocolate and eventually part ways (only to be reunited by a series of fortunate accidents by the end of the film).

If you’ve got a sweet tooth and an even sweeter romantic side, the cafe, Serendipity 3, is open until midnight Sunday through Thursday, 1 a.m. on Fridays and 2 a.m. on Saturdays. After all, you never know who you may be waiting with in the line that stretches down East 60th Street.

Macy’s from “Miracle on 34th Street”

The actual miracle on 34th Street in the 1947 movie, as well as the 1994 remake, takes place at 151 West 34th Street to be exact, Macy’s flagship store in New York’s Herald Square.

Since 1924, the department store kicks off the Christmas shopping season with its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, culminating with the arrival of Santa Claus at the parade’s finale. After the parade and until Christmas Eve, children can visit the “nice man with the white beard” like Susan Walker and tell Santa what they’d like for Christmas.

If you can’t make it to New York, every Macy’s across the country has a letterbox for stamped letters to the North Pole. As a bonus, each letter received will generate a $1 donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

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Interesting Expert of the Week, ‘A Christmas Story’ Edition

December 16th, 2011 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article by Maria Perez

There are many iconic scenes in “A Christmas Story”: Flick’s tongue getting stuck to a flagpole. Ralphie getting his mouth washed out with soap. The “deranged Easter bunny” suit. And, of course, the leg lamp. Who can forget the leg lamp?

Not Brian Jones, owner of A Christmas Story House in Cleveland. Jones, who is profiled on ProfNet Connect, is an expert on the holiday movie and can share facts and trivia about the film and the actors.

In 2003, Jones launched a business that sells leg lamps just like the one featured in the film. In 2004, he purchased the Cleveland home used in the movie off of eBay and restored it to its original movie splendor. A Christmas Story House opened Thanksgiving weekend 2006 and has become a top tourist destination. In 2008, Jones hosted A Christmas Story 25th Anniversary Celebration & Convention in Cleveland, which included a reunion of original cast members.

Jones took some time out of his busy holiday schedule to answer a few questions for us:

Can you tell us a little more about the house? What should people know about it?

The house is in Cleveland, at 3159 W. 11th St., just five minutes from downtown. I purchased it sight unseen off of eBay in 2004. I renovated it back to how it appeared in the movie (inside and out) and it opened the day after Thanksgiving in 2006. This month will mark our fifth anniversary.

The movie’s production crew chose Cleveland because the Higbee’s department store would let them film inside, when several other department stores had already turned them down. To find a house, they simply fanned out from downtown. This house was available and had the backdrop of steel mills in the valley behind the house. Steel mills were a big part of the author’s childhood in Hammond, Ind. Also, no house was on the left side to give a better camera angle. It was an available rental property. The house was mostly used for exteriors, with only a couple interior shots. The rest was filmed on a sound stage in Canada.

What we try to recreate is a feeling that you really are at Ralphie’s house inside and out, so that you can relive the movie. The house across the street serves as a museum, with original props and costumes, as well as behind-the-scenes photos and information.

When did you know you wanted to make the film such a big part of your life and career?

Never. I wanted to fly jets for the Navy; I just stumbled into this. I started making leg lamps in my condo and selling them online part-time. The response was great, so I decided to leave the Navy to do it full-time. The second year was better than the first — I had trouble keeping up with demand. That same year, the house came up for sale, and I simply figured that if this many people wanted a leg lamp, then a large number of people would also like to come see the house. A part of it was also that I am a fan and wanted to see a piece of Americana saved and cherished. I figured there was nothing to lose. Why not give it a shot?

What about the film appeals to you?

It’s hilarious and relatable at the same time. You can relate to Ralphie’s experiences in the movie presented in such a comical but true-to-life way. All the dynamics of being a kid, and being a kid at Christmas, are here: the double standard of your dad cursing all the time but it being the end of the world if you say one curse word; the peer pressure to do a dare you know you should not; the family dynamic between the mom and dad over the stuff he thinks is great that she can’t stand; campaigning so hard for that one thing you really want for Christmas; the first time you realized there are a lot of gimmicks out there.

Has making a career out of the film changed the way you experience the holidays?

I work a lot more around the holidays. Before this, the holiday season was when I took the most time off, so it a complete switch. In fact, it’s now the time of year I work the most. Watching the film is different too. I can still get into it, but it takes me a little longer to suspend reality and just enjoy it. I now know all the actors personally — I know their real personalities in addition to their character personalities. I just know so many of the ins and outs of the film that I enjoy it in a different way now.

Why should families today care about “A Christmas Story”?

It’s a great family film and a classic that is true to the American Christmas experience. It’s the classic Christmas movie of this generation. It shows Christmas as it really is, with fun and festivity but also the stress and hectic worry that are part of the holidays.

When does one cease to be a “superfan” and start to be an expert about a film?

I just happened to me out of circumstance. I needed to know things to make sure the house was accurate to the movie. People would start to ask me questions and expect me to know the answer because I owned the house. So I just started talking to people who were involved in making the movie or knew stuff about the film.

Do you have any memorable holiday stories of your own? I campaigned for a year to get a dog. I was just as sure as Ralphie that it was never going to happen. But it was my Christmas present that year — the greatest present I ever received, better than the Millennium Falcon I had gotten a few years earlier.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Merry Christmas!

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Big business for ‘A Christmas Story’

December 23rd, 2010 by Ralphie

Variety Logo for A Christmas Story Article

Link to Original Article

Big business for ‘A Christmas Story’

Merchandising, home video a boon for Warner Bros.

From humble beginnings, a cottage industry has grown.”A Christmas Story,” the 1983 MGM/UA release starring Peter Billingsley as a 9-year-old Indiana boy who yearns for a BB gun for Christmas, has not only joined “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” on the list of holiday movie classics through its perennial airings on Turner cablers, it has spurred a merchandising business that is a gift that keeps on giving to Warner Home Video and Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

Rabid fans of the pic, set in 1941, turn out by the thousands to the Christmas Story House and Museum in Cleveland, where much of the film was shot. The house, acquired via eBay by a San Diego entrepreneur in 2004, serves as a clearinghouse of memorabilia related to the pic, and it hosts an annual “Christmas Story” convention in November.

The biggest moneymaker for Warner Bros., of course, has been homevid sales. The pic helmed by Bob Clark has sold more than 6.5 million copies on DVD and Blu-ray over the past 10 years. Since the dawn of the DVD in 1997, Warner Home Video has shipped 500,000 copies to retailers every year, even though “Christmas Story” has no shortage of exposure on TNT and TBS. For the past 14 years, one of the Turner cablers has carried a “24 Hours of ‘A Christmas Story’ ” marathon that begins at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve. (TNT started the marathon tradition in 1997; it moved to TBS in 2004.)

” ‘A Christmas Story’ has achieved cult status and is an evergreen film,” said Jeff Baker, senior veep and g.m. of theatrical catalog for Warner Home Video. “The annual multiple airings that drive high ratings on Turner networks only serve to feed the demand for the film in packaged media.”

As an adult, Billingsley has branched out into producing and directing, and he is involved in a legit tuner adaptation of “A Christmas Story” that opened in previews this month at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater. With holiday-themed shows performing well on the Rialto, it’s a no-brainer that producers are hoping for an eventual Main Stem transfer.

Back in 1983, there were few indications that “Christmas Story” would have such a prosperous afterlife.

The pic bowed in about 900 theaters on Nov. 18, 1983, during an ebb in MGM/UA’s fortunes, so there wasn’t much of a marketing push. Clark was coming off the success of the raunchy hit “Porky’s,” which gave him the clout to push through a passion project he’d nurtured for a decade, based on an autobiographical story by humorist and radio raconteur Jean Shepherd.

“Christmas Story,” which also starred Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon as the boy’s parents, grossed $19.3 million. It was popular enough to play in some theaters through January 1984, and it had a brief limited re-release during the holidays that year.

The title came into the Turner fold in 1986 through Ted Turner’s acquisition of the Lion’s pre-1986 film library. But the pic didn’t make its Turner debut, on TBS, until Dec. 1, 1992. Since then, it has aired about 260 times (and counting) on TBS, TNT and TCM, according to Turner.

Viewer appreciation for the story of Ralphie’s quest to persuade his parents to buy him the Christmas present of his dreams — or, as Billingsley recites, “an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time” — snowballed quickly. Pic’s sweet but not syrupy tone and universal themes of childhood fantasies, holiday pressures and family idiosyncrasies continues to resonate with auds and critics.

One of “A Christmas Story’s” most distinctive touches involves McGavin’s character winning a “major award” in a contest, which turns out to be a leg lamp. Those lamps have become a merchandising bonanza for numerous manufacturers.

Brian Jones began selling leg lamps out of his San Diego home in 2003. His parents had sent him a homemade one to raise his spirits when he failed to make the cut for Navy flight school. Based on the amount of interest the homemade lamp generated among his friends, Jones started thinking about a “Christmas Story” market opportunity.

“I was getting out of my second tour of the Navy and trying to decide what I should do with my life,” Jones said. “I decided I should sell leg lamps.”

As his business prospered, another acquaintance informed Jones that the house where “Christmas Story” was filmed was for sale on eBay. Jones bought it in 2004 for $150,000 with the goal of turning it into a tourist stop. But first he had to completely redo the inside to make it look like the film, because most of the movie’s interiors were shot on a soundstage in Toronto.

An additional $240,000 later, Jones opened the Christmas Story House and Museum in 2006. After an initial hiccup with Warner Bros.’ legal department, he worked out a licensing agreement with the studio. He averages about 30,000-35,000 visitors a year — July is the third-busiest month behind November and December. He’s since bought up adjacent properties to expand the museum and gift shop, which sells leg lamps and nearly 200 other products tied to the pic (Christmas ornaments, action figures, T-shirts, mugs, hats, etc.). In a good year, Jones said he moves about 5,000 leg lamps of various sizes.

Jones’ inaugural fan convention, which encompasses a weekend of “Christmas Story”-related activities and guest appearances, drew about 5,000 dedicated fans. This year’s event, held Nov. 26-27, drew about 2,500. Jones said his big regret is that helmer Clark never made it to the house before he and his 22-year-old son, Ariel, were killed in April 2007 by a drunken driver.

What is it about “Christmas Story” that makes people travel from as far away as South Africa to spend a weekend at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel playing Ralphie trivia and hobnobbing with actors who had small parts in the pic? Jones credits the heart, humor and timelessness of the yarn spun by Shepherd and translated onscreen by Clark.

“Everybody seems to relate to this story regardless of where they grew up,” Jones said. “It’s about that time in your life where there’s just that one thing you want bad for Christmas, and it’s about family life at Christmastime. It’s just a little bit more real than most films about Christmas.”

Contact Cynthia Littleton at cynthia.littleton@variety.com

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Can’t get enough “Christmas Story”? You’re in the right place: Best of Cleveland

December 22nd, 2010 by Ralphie

CLEVELAND, Ohio — It’s not the Rock HallCleveland Clinic or Cleveland Browns . . . nope, the biggest tourist draw this time of year has got to be the “A Christmas Story” House in Tremont. Media across the country are covering it, and film fans from around the world are making the pilgrimage to the museum that pays homage to the 1983 classic about young Ralphie Parker’s dream of getting a Red Ryder BB gun from Santa. So start a new tradition for yourself or for your visiting friends and family this Christmas week. Read on for some of The Best Ways to Get the Full Cleveland “Christmas Story” Experience.

“A Christmas Story” House and Museum, 3159 West 11th St., Cleveland, 216-298-4919, achristmasstoryhouse.com: Ground zero for “Christmas Story” fans is this impressive house and museum, opened by uber-fan Brian Jones in 2006. Tour the house, lovingly restored to its movie splendor, then cross the street and visit the museum, where you will see original props, costumes and memorabilia. These include toys from the Higbee’s window, Randy’s snowsuit, the chalkboard from Miss Shields’ classroom and the family car from the film, plus rare behind-the-scenes photos. There’s also a gift shop for all your “Christmas Story” shopping needs. Leg lamp, anyone? Adults, $8; children 7 to 12, $6; kids 6 and under, free; and seniors, $7.

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The exterior of Ralphie’s house in Tremont.

“A Christmas Story” package at Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, 24 Public Square, Cleveland, 216-696-5600, marriott.com: Make it a very special day — and night — with this fun package offered by the elegant downtown Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. Available through Jan. 30, it includes deluxe accommodations for two, two tickets to the “A Christmas Story” House and Museum, a “Christmas Story” goodie bag, breakfast and parking. Packages start at $169 per night.

Take home a leg lamp: You don’t have to win a “major award” to take home a leg lamp just like the Old Man. Several area boutiques sell the, er, unique fixtures, including the “Christmas Story” House Gift Shop and Big Fun, 1814 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights

“Chinese Christmas turkey”: No “Christmas Story” experience is complete without a complete — and I mean complete — Peking duck dinner, head and all, just like the family had on Christmas Day. Aficionados can order and stay close to the house and visit the “Official Chinese restaurant” of “A Christmas Story” House, Bac Asian eatery, 2661 West 14th St. It’s not really Chinese — more pan-Asian — and the chic clublike space looks nothing like the kitschy joint in the film, but it is very good, and you’ll get 10 percent off your bill with a receipt from the House.

Public Square: Higbee’s played a major role in “A Christmas Story,” from the opening frame with Ralphie peeking in the window to the infamous Santa scene. Sadly, the downtown department store is long gone, but the lovely building still stands — with a lively retro Christmas window in what is now Positively Cleveland‘s space. And after you take a peek in the window, turn around and take in the festive lights that line all the quadrants of Public Square. While you’re there, don’t miss Tower City’s beautiful holiday decorations.

Overheard

A weekly look at people and places in the national press: This week, we look at a recent article in the Boston Herald about “A Christmas Story” House.”

“Combine Christmas with a healthy dose of nostalgia and you’ve got a heady gumbo that drives people to do strange things. Like travel to Cleveland,” begins the article.

(Oh, ha, ha, a Cleveland joke.)

“That’s where an honest-to-goodness living monument to Christmas exists: The “A Christmas Story” house. Fans of the classic 1983 film can relive that 1940s-set holiday where a bespectacled Ralphie triumphed over seemingly insurmountable obstacles (‘You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!’) and got his dream gift of a BB gun.”

“What better time to visit than just before Christmas?” concludes the story by Bill Burke, which even provides driving directions to the house — 9 hours and 18 minutes from Boston!

Outside opinion

Each week, “Outside Opinion” asks a visitor what he or she likes best about Cleveland. This week, we talk to Beth Schneider, 31, of Cincinnati, who is in town to visit family — and “A Christmas Story” House.

“I’m a huge fan of the film. I can’t even wait for the marathon on Christmas Eve,” says Schneider. “Every time I come home, I want to visit the house but never have the chance. So this year I came up even earlier to make sure there was time . . . and to celebrate my mom’s birthday, too.”

So, was it worth the wait?

“Very much so,” she says. “It was so cool to see the inside, and all the snow outside really set the mood. It looked very authentic. I kept waiting for the neighbors’ dogs to run in [like in the film].”

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