News Home
Quick Bites
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
On AirNewsClassical
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Knight Foundation

Hennes Paynter Communications

Greater Akron Chamber

For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )

Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Arts and Entertainment

Cleveland celebrates 30 years of "A Christmas Story"
The holiday classic was released Nov. 18, 1983, and has spent three decades climbing from box-office flop to cultural icon; the anniversary is being celebrated in Cleveland -- where much of the film was shot -- throughout the holidays

Kabir Bhatia
When it opened in 1983, "A Christmas Story" grossed just $19 million, or about 1/14th of that year's box-office champ, "Return of the Jedi." Since the "Christmas Story" house opened in 2006, it has attracted 300,000 visitors
Courtesy of KABIR BHATIA
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:
“A Christmas Story” was released 30 years ago today. The Depression-era tale of a boy who wanted a BB gun for Christmas was filmed in Cleveland during the winter of 1983. As WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports, the movie will be celebrated here throughout the holidays.
Cleveland celebrates 30 years of "A Christmas Story"

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (4:54)

Siskel & Ebert gave two thumbs up to “A Christmas Story” upon its release in 1983. 

“It’s a sweet movie. I really wonder if anyone's going to see it. I sure hope they do. My guess is, either no one will go to see it, or millions will go to see it because it will catch on. It's the kind of movie that everyone can identify with."

But only a few million people did see it at the time. The movie grossed just 1/14th of that year’s box office champ, “Return of the Jedi.”

But this was the dawn of cable and home video. Repeated airings on TV and videocassette eventually made “A Christmas Story” nearly as ubiquitous as “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

"It's... funny!"
Robert Maynard from Chagrin Falls worked in downtown Cleveland when the movie was shot 30 years ago, and took his family to see it in the theater that year.

“It became a cult movie and everyone in my family watches it at Christmas time.”

Over the weekend, Maynard brought his son, Christopher, now grown up and living in Maryland, to see the house that served as the setting for much of “A Christmas Story.”

“It was funny to see the Lifebuoy and the way the sink looked and I thought, ‘Wow, this is what a house looked like in 1940.’ It’s pretty stark. There’s no amenities at all."

The two-story frame house is neatly maintained, with its backyard overlooking the steel mills on Cleveland's west side. The rooms in the house might not be identical to the movie, but the little touches capture the feel of the era. An old radio, complete with newspaper program listings, sits across from a credenza. Cans of lard and cane sugar are in the kitchen, next to the oil-drum-shaped washing machine. Robert Maynard remembers it well.

“I was born here [in Cleveland] in 1936. So I lived here in the era portrayed in the movie. I can relate to the close quarters and the closeness that they lived in. Families were close, and there was a lot of warmth in these houses.”

Bringing back the neighborhood
When fan Brian Jones bought the house on a decade ago, it was close to demolition. Jones renovated the house, recreating much of the feel of the movie. Most of the interior scenes were actually filmed in Canada. Still, the view from the outside – complete with leg lamp in the window – is magical for movie fans like Jimmy Roberts from Texarkana, Texas.

“I’ve seen this movie probably 75 times. I think everything in it reminds everybody of something. Even if you didn’t grow up with snow. There’s never a boring spot in that movie. So many people of every age can relate to something, I think is what it is.”

About 300,000 people have visited the house at 3159 W. 11th Street since it opened in 2006. Retiree Joyce Seagro lives next door and offers parking for visitors.

“They’re from all over. I enjoy asking people where they’re from. I look at their license plates.”

She moved in right after filming wrapped, and says the house is a big plus for a formerly crumbling neighborhood.

“I didn’t have any idea it was going to be like this. No idea. They are great people over there. They’re fantastic.”

A varied pedigree
“A Christmas Story” was directed by Bob Clark, best known for the raunchy “Porky’s” films, plus the horror-cult classic “Black Christmas.” The screenplay was based on a book by New York radio host Jean Shepard, whose humor pieces appeared everywhere from "Playboy" to "Car & Driver" to "MAD Magazine." He also narrates the movie. These very adult and askew influences worked with a miniscule budget.

Cleveland was hoping for a wintry look. Steve Siedlecki, executive director of the “Christmas Story” House, says Cleveland’s notorious uncertain weather stepped in.

“The snow you see in the movie is actually a mixture of manufactured snow from the ski resorts, potato flakes, snowflakes, firefighter foam; anything that kind of looked like snow that, once you pulled the cameras away, you couldn’t tell what it was. That’s one of the reasons they took the rest of the production to Canada. They didn’t have the money to continue to bring in that fake snow.”

To the theater
After the movie’s release, heavy competition from "Terms of Endearment," "Scarface" and "Yentl" drove it from theaters within two weeks. But today, fans visit the mustard-and-green house to remember the bunny suit, "Oh, fudge," Santa at Higbee's, and of course, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

Across the street, Siedlecki and company have transformed two more houses into a gift shop and museum. The 30th anniversary of “A Christmas Story” is being celebrated on West 11th Street starting Thanksgiving weekend, with a fan convention at the house. Charity runs, a “Little Piggy” eating contest, and a luncheon will be used to raise money for restoration of other homes in the neighborhood.

(Click image for larger view.)

Add Your Comment


E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook

Stories with Recent Comments

Charter reform bill includes controversial change for some teachers
I work for a former White Hat charter school; it was sold to another (for-profit) company this past summer and we were told that they would not pay into STRS/PE...

Bhutanese resettlement has had a big economic impact
Informative especially for nonmembers of North Hill. I appreciate the fact that you mention that the younger generation has an easier time than the elders but t...

Ottawa County Commissioner sworn in as new house member
Congratulations on your new appointment to the Ohio House. I'm certain you will do an outstanding job in your new role representing our district. When you have...

Holden Arboretum opens a new canopy walk and emergent tower
Visited the Holden Arboretum today to witness the incredible work you did constructing the tower and bridges.WOW! Very impressed. Knew the build had to be great...

Local club works to bring back the once-prevalent American elm
I would love to help! Where would I get some of the new Strain so I could plant them?

Four Geauga school districts consider consolidating on the Kent State campus
Berkshire was smart to merge with Ledgemont because it had shrinking enrollment and excess capacity at its high school. Now that Cardinal is dragging its feet ...

Ohio Rep. John Boccieri sworn into office and hopes to look for 'middle ground' with colleagues
Welcome back to the Statehouse, John. You are a terrific representative in the truest sense always representing the people's voice in teh district you serve. ...

Lawmakers call for indefinite freeze on Green Energy standards
It's a shame the Hudson Rep. Chooses to mimic the words of the extreme right senator on his way out to join ALEC when we know the Pope was just here because of...

Youngstown Schools file suit against the Ohio Department of Education to stop the implementation of an academic distress commission
Voters should ask WHY this plan was rushed into law under the cover of darkness. What clues point to the beneficiaries of this plan? Both Patrick O'Donnell of...

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University