Home entertainment: festive viewing
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Home entertainment: festive viewing

This year’s festive period will be unlike any other – much like the rest of 2020. In the absence of live entertainment, Insider Engage looks at the films, concerts and pantomimes coming to your living room

Breast Cancer Now’s Carols by Candlelight 2012.Credit: Angela Nott

While many countries still have forms of lockdown or other restrictions in place, much of the season’s entertainment is going to be online. Insider Engage has rifled through the schedules to come up with a variety of options to cater for all tastes.

Popcorn picks

Netflix’s tradition of putting out Christmas gems for viewers young and old continues with Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.

Forest Whitaker stars as toymaker Jeronicus Jangle, who is struggling to recapture his creative spark and rebuild his relationship with his daughter.

He is also facing competition from his former assistant, played by Keane-Michael Key, and a rebellious matador doll played by Ricky Martin. Yes, that Ricky Martin.

If you enjoyed The Christmas Prince and its sequels (don’t worry, we won’t tell), you may also enjoy Netflix’s 2020 selection of festive guilty pleasures.

The Princess Switch: Switched Again sees Vanessa Hudgens in no less than three roles and adopting a wonderful English accent, while Operation Christmas Drop centres on Christmas on a US army base in Guam – and why not?

We also can’t miss out Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square. The country music legend has penned a musical centred around angels working to bring joy to a small religious town – an ideal festive heartwarmer.

Elsewhere, Pixar is launching its latest animation on Christmas Day via Disney Plus.


Soul is the story of a music-loving New Yorker whose soul becomes separated from his body after an accident.

It’s strongly reminiscent of the Oscar-winning Inside Out – director Pete Docter was responsible for the 2015 smash hit, too – and has all the hallmarks of a Pixar classic.

Disney Plus is also streaming the recently released Noelle, a well-written film for the whole family starring Anna Kendrick as Kris Kringle’s daughter, who must find her brother in time to save Christmas.

Christmas cinema classics are also available online, including Home Alone (Disney Plus), The Holiday (Amazon Prime/Netflix) and, of course, The Muppet Christmas Carol (Disney Plus).

Culture Couch

The world of live theatre may have been devastated by the pandemic, but some venues have been able to stream performances online.

The Old Vic’s In Camera series returns in December with Jack Thorne’s take on the seasonal Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. Scrooge is to be played by Andrew Lincoln of The Walking Dead fame, and tickets start from £10.

The Royal Opera House has a range of filmed performances available to access via its website.

Three of its 2019 shows, Don Giovanni, Flight Pattern, and Enigma Variations are available for £2.50 each.

Ariodante in Concert – a performance of George Frideric Handel’s first opera written specially for Covent Garden in 1735 – is available until 20 December for £10.

The Royal Opera Christmas Concert, featuring fairy tale favourites and Royal Opera repertory classics, also costs £10 and will be available until 17 January 2021.

Chris Rankin stars as the Fairy Godfather in interactive online pantomime, Cinderella.Credit: Sian Trenberth Photography Ltd

If you’ve been missing London's West End this year, A West End Christmas showcases the best of London’s musical theatre in six online performances from 10-13 December, with all proceeds going to the Covid-19 Emergency Fund to support the beleaguered arts sector.

Why not bring the fun of the pantomime to your living room?

Renowned director Charlotte Peters is bringing a ground-breaking interactive version of Cinderella to the web from 18 December, while Islington's King’s Head Theatre in London is showing Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown from 14 December (be sure to choose the right version – family and adult shows available).

Seasonal specials

Breast Cancer Now’s Carols by Candlelight 2012.Credit: Angela Nott

If you’re craving carols, rustle up some mulled wine and tune in to one of the many Christmas-themed concerts streaming during December.

The London Symphony Orchestra is broadcasting an hour-long performance on 13 December at 3pm, featuring a mix of traditional and contemporary festive tunes. A Choral Christmas is free on YouTube, with more information on the LSO website.

Cathedrals across the country have announced plans for livestreams of carol concerts and Christmas services, with more information available online.

The charity sector was hit particularly hard by the pandemic, so why not give back by joining a charity carol concert?

Dr Helen Czerski, Professor Chris Jackson, and Dr Tara Shine deliver this year's Royal Institution Christmas Lectures.Credit: Paul Wilkinson

Check online to see if your favourite charity is hosting an event or join me at Breast Cancer Now’s Carols by Candlelight streamed on 9 December.

Finally, for some intellectual stimulation, the Royal Institution’s famous Christmas Lectures, now in its 195th year, will be shown on BBC 4 from 28 December.

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