The Reason Why So Many Movies Open on Christmas Day

dolgachov/iStock via Getty Images
dolgachov/iStock via Getty Images

When Paramount decided to release the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby comedy Road to Rio in theaters on December 25, 1947, studio executives were slightly concerned. Would moviegoers consider the premiere of a film on Christmas Day to be in poor taste? Would it be offensive to some?

They shouldn’t have worried. The film was a hit, making an impressive $4.5 million, and Hollywood has made Christmas Day (or near-Christmas Day) releases a major part of their financial strategy ever since. The reason? While Christmas is a sacrosanct holiday for many, the closing of businesses creates a vacuum. Few stores are open and diversions are hard to come by, making a trip to the movies one of the only ways families can congregate somewhere other than home during a holiday break. Some theaters report business picks up after 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. in the afternoons, when presents have been unwrapped and people with free time are in search of something to do.

Because of time off from work and school, movies also have a chance to achieve “legs,” or the ability to stretch their success over a longer period. While big-budget films are often deemed a success or failure based largely on their opening weekend box office tallies, a smaller film, like 2007’s P.S. I Love You, can open small and still come out ahead. That particular film made just $6.5 million during its opening weekend, but wound up with $53.7 million through January.

This year, several films will debut on December 25, including the fact-based docudrama Just Mercy, the Will Smith animated comedy Spies in Disguise, the World War I drama 1917, and Greta Gerwig's adaptation of Little Women. If past box office trends hold, it could be a very profitable season for studios. Of the five biggest box office hits of all time—1997’s Titanic, 2009’s Avatar, 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, and 2019’s Avengers: Endgame—all but the Avengers films were late-season holiday releases.

While there’s lots of family fare, studios also look to the season to highlight movies that might be in awards contention. From 1986 to 2005, half of all the Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards were released on or after December 15. When the Oscars were moved up a month from March to February, studios moved award hopefuls back. Now, prestige pictures arrive in theaters in October and November, too.

Of course, whether a movie can enjoy a financial windfall during Christmas depends a lot on what part of the world you’re in. While a Christmas run works in America, China tends to fill theaters during the Chinese New Year in late January or February. The French line up over Labor Day weekend. Russia prefers New Year’s Day. For the Japanese, the April and early May Golden Week holiday is a prime theater window. But in all territories, the motive is largely the same: People want something to do with—or a way to briefly get away from—family.

Why Is Opening an Umbrella Indoors Supposed to Be Bad Luck?

Will this umbrella bring bad luck?
Will this umbrella bring bad luck?
lenta/iStock via Getty Images

If leaving your umbrella open to dry in the corner of your office makes you slightly uneasy, you’re probably not alone. When it comes to alleged harbingers of bad luck, open indoor umbrellas are right up there with broken mirrors and black cats. While the origin of the superstition isn’t exactly proven, there are a few leading theories about how and why it began.

One of them suggests it started around 1200 BCE, when the ancient Egyptian priests and royalty were using umbrellas made of peacock feathers and papyrus to shield them from the sun. According to Reader’s Digest, the superstition might have stemmed from a belief that opening an umbrella indoors—away from the sun’s rays—would anger the sun god, Ra, and generate negative consequences.

Another theory involves a different ancient Egyptian deity: Nut, goddess of the sky. As HowStuffWorks reports, these early umbrellas were crafted to mirror (and honor) the way she protected the Earth, so their shade was considered sacred. If anybody with non-noble blood used one, that person supposedly became a walking, talking beacon of bad luck.

The reason we try to abstain from opening umbrellas indoors today, however, is probably more about avoiding injury than divine wrath. Modern umbrellas gained popularity during the Victorian era with Samuel Fox’s invention of the steel-ribbed Paragon frame, which included a spring mechanism that allowed it to expand quickly—and dangerously.

“A rigidly spoked umbrella, opening suddenly in a small room, could seriously injure an adult or child, or shatter a frangible object,” Charles Panati writes in his book Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things. “Thus, the superstition arose as a deterrent to opening umbrellas indoors.”

All things considered, even if opening an umbrella indoors doesn’t necessarily make for bad luck, getting poked in the eye by one can certainly make for a bad day.

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How IKEA Comes Up With Its Product Names

Original IKEA paper shopping bag.
Original IKEA paper shopping bag.
monticelllo/iStock via Getty Images

There is more to IKEA’s product naming system than non-Swedish people might think. Swedophones are familiar with the furniture store’s oddly specific conventions, but for most of us, Malm is just a line of bedroom furniture. IKEA’s product lines are named according to a set of guidelines from which the company rarely deviates.

According to Quartz, the company's product naming process is the result of IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad's struggle with dyslexia. Kamprad found that nouns helped him remember and visualize products better than using code numbers, so he created a series of unusual naming conventions that the company still uses today.

A bookcase, for instance, is probably always going to be named after a profession, if it doesn’t have a boy’s name like Billy. Rugs tend to be named after cities in Denmark and Sweden, while outdoor furniture is named after islands in Scandinavia, like Kuggö, an outdoor umbrella named after an island about 125 miles west of Helsinki. Expedit, the beloved, discontinued shelving unit, means “salesclerk,” while its replacement, Kallax, is named after a town in northern Sweden. Curtains are named for mathematical terms.

Some of the other products have more descriptive names. Lack, IKEA's shiny living room furniture line, means “lacquer.” Sockerkaka, a bakeware line, means “sponge cake.” Bathroom products are named after rivers and lakes.

Some of the translations serve as little corporate jokes. The name of the toy line Duktig means “clever.” Storsint, a wine glass series, is the word for “magnanimous.”

Here’s Quartz’s list of IKEA taxonomy:

  • Bathroom articles = Names of Swedish lakes and bodies of water
  • Bed textiles = Flowers and plants
  • Beds, wardrobes, hall furniture = Norwegian place names
  • Bookcases = Professions, Scandinavian boy’s names
  • Bowls, vases, candles and candle holders = Swedish place names, adjectives, spices, herbs, fruits and berries
  • Boxes, wall decoration, pictures and frames, clocks = Swedish slang expressions, Swedish place names
  • Children’s products = Mammals, birds, adjectives
  • Desks, chairs and swivel chairs = Scandinavian boy’s names
  • Fabrics, curtains = Scandinavian girl’s names
  • Garden furniture = Scandinavian islands
  • Kitchen accessories = Fish, mushrooms and adjectives
  • Lighting = Units of measurement, seasons, months, days, shipping and nautical terms, Swedish place names
  • Rugs = Danish place names
  • Sofas, armchairs, chairs and dining tables = Swedish place names

Sadly, if a Swedish name sounds too much like a dirty word in another language, the product name will be changed in that country. Which is why you can’t buy a bench called Fartfull in an English-speaking country. At least, not anymore.

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