Ree Drummond (Courtesy of Betsy Dutcher)
Food Network has completed production on its first-ever scripted movie, “Candy Coated Christmas,” which won’t air on the linear cable channel but rather on Discovery Plus. The feel-good holiday movie features Ree Drummond, host of the cabler’s long-running “The Pioneer Woman.”
“Candy Coated Christmas” will mark the first original scripted movie to air on Discovery Plus. Discovery and Food Network aim to grab a slice of the holiday movie audience that has proven to be so lucrative for Hallmark Channel, Freeform, Discovery’s OWN and other cablers. Food Network and its sibling channels under the Discovery umbrella such as HGTV and Investigation Discovery already attract large female audiences, which is a good fit with the holiday movie demo.
Kathleen Finch, Discovery’s chief lifestyle brands officer, said the plan is to promote “Candy Coated Christmas” heavily across the linear channels to drive viewership and subscribers to Discovery Plus, the streaming platform that bowed in January. The movie will premiere in November.
“It’s been a dream of ours to do this for a long time,” Finch told Variety. “Not only do we have the Discovery Plus platform to put the movie on, what’s exciting is that we have giant cable networks and digital platforms that we can really use to promote the movie in a super-sized way.”
Discovery plans to create a host of supplemental content around “Candy Coated Christmas” such as recipes and other material for Food Network. The chance to do a feature-length movie is a good example of how Discovery Plus is allowing Discovery’s long-established cable brands to expand into new genres and new forms of content. The hope is that “Candy Coated” is a model for more special efforts around big promotable events such as the holidays.
“Now that we’ve got Discovery Plus it’s the perfect opportunity to stretch our niche content envelope,” Finch said. “It’s a great opportunity to break into new and different forms of content and leverage our audience base.”
“Candy Coated Christmas” is the first in a production pact that Discovery has set with MarVista Entertainment, a prolific producer of TV movies. Ellie Kanner (“Love and Sunshine”) directed from a script by Alex Yonks, Kanner and Joey Plager. The movie wrapped production earlier this month after a two-week shoot in Utah.
The movie revolves around a young woman (Molly McCook) who returns to her mother’s home town of Peppermint Hollow after her plans to launch a business are derailed by circumstance. Drummond plays the owner of a bakery who befriends the woman and introduces her around town. The role was penned for Drummond, who is known for her bright smile and cheery approach to rustic home cooking.
“Ree is the epitome of a female-skewing Food Network talent,” Finch said. “We put her and all these fun ideas into a pot and came up with this fun idea.”
The movie marks Drummond’s first attempt at acting.
“’Candy Coated Christmas’ was so much fun to be part of; it had all the magical elements that make holiday movies so special,” Drummond said. “Any initial nerves I felt about joining this project completely melted away when I stepped into the sweet, charming world of Peppermint Hollow.”
“Candy Coated Christmas” will be part of a larger slate of holiday-themed content that Discovery Plus with push hard in the fourth quarter. Food Network also serves up copious amounts of holiday themed content from Halloween through New Year’s Day — more than 100 episodes of key shows will be holiday-focused. “Every one of those episodes is ripe for us to market this movie,” she said.
Finch pointed to new Food Network productions for Discovery Plus — including the comedy-flavored “Well Done with Sebastian Maniscalco” and Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis travelogue “Bobby and Giada in Italy” — as examples of how established Discovery cable brands are branching out for Discovery Plus.
“So much of what we’re doing right now is looking at how do we take our niche genres — food, home, crime — and expand them in ways we might not be able to do on linear,” she said. “We can put them on Discovery Plus and market it in a different way. We are finding new ways to make our content available.”
“Candy Coated Christmas” also stars John McCook, Aaron O’Connell, Lee Garlington and Landry Townsend. Kanner, Plager, Larry Grimaldi, Hannah Pillemer and Fernando Szew are executive producers.
Variety's Cynthia Littleton contributed to this post.