This Is How Much It Costs To Blanket Your Favorite Hallmark Movies In Snow

Snow is a common part of the landscape in certain parts of North America. So common in fact, that according to the The Washington Post, the Inuit dialect spoken in Canada's Nunavik region has at least 53 different terms, all of which mean "snow." These include words like "matsaaruti" for a certain type of wet snow, and "pukak," which is powdery snow.

In Hallmark Christmas movie world, there are different ways to say "snow," too. Because the movies are mostly shot during the summer and snow is a critical — nay, nonnegotiable — part of every movie, Business Insider reported in 2017 that visual effects teams have had to get creative about the ingredients they use to achieve a white Christmas. These, according to effects expert Luc Benning, include snow blankets (which look like car-seat cushions), fire-retardant foam (growing in popularity), crushed limestone, ice shavings from ice blocks, and snow made with machines like those that ski slopes use. For closeups, there are soapy bubbles. All that adds up to a snow budget of $50,000 per episode.

Why $50,000 is worth the money for faux snow

Can it really be a Christmas movie without snow? Hallmark doesn't seem to think so, and says there is an atmospheric checklist of sorts for every movie: "Buying a Christmas tree. Wrapping gifts. Thinking of gifts. Baking and cooking meals. Family gatherings. All of the things that you think of as traditional," says Randy Pope, senior vice president of programming (via The Wall Street Journal). Given this checklist, it makes sense that they're willing to pony up for a white Christmas.

Yes, $50,000 for snow might sound like a lot until you learn that it's really just a drop in the bucket of the $2 million budget allocated to produce a Hallmark Christmas movie. And yes, $2 million per movie might sound like a lot until you find out Hallmark Channel's Christmas programming brings in hundreds and millions of dollars worth of advertising revenue: about $370 million in 2017 and an estimated $390 million in 2018 (via CNN). $2 million per movie might also sound like a lot until you discover other networks pay a lot more (via Marketplace). 

Variety says HBO spent $15 million for each of the final episodes of Game of Thrones. Netflix signs checks for $8 million for every episode of Stranger Things, and $10 million for every episode of The Crown. Those budgets also have to account for the salaries of on-camera talent, but also for any and all effects you see on the screen. 

There is one downside to fake snow — at least from the actors' point of view. Director Ron Oliver recalled a scene with Candace Cameron Bure, who was to be shot in a close-up with snow falling around her. Soap bubble snow, as it turn out, might look magical, but it's anything but in reality. "He hair was literally concrete," said Oliver. "And she had soap in her mouth." We're glad Hallmark makes the effort, no matter how much of a mess the snow makes behind the scenes.