‘The Christmas Card’ continues to bring to bring tourists to Nevada City | TheUnion.com

‘The Christmas Card’ continues to bring to bring tourists to Nevada City

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union

"It's the biggest promotion this town has ever seen."

That's how Nevada City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cathy Whittlesey describes "The Christmas Card," the 2006 Hallmark Channel holiday movie filmed in Nevada City and featuring Victorian Christmas.

"It's unbelievable to me," said Whittlesey. "Every week someone comes into the chamber office and says, 'I'm here because of the movie 'The Christmas Card.'

"We'd been in National Geographic magazine and the New York Times," Whittlesey continued, "so when the producer told me the movie would be the biggest thing to happen to Nevada City, I didn't believe him."

“Who would have thought one movie would bring so much to this town?”

— Cathy Whittlesey, Nevada City Chamber of Commerce executive director

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But that prediction by "The Christmas Card" producer Lincoln Lageson has been proven true many times over.

"Many times with films you use fictitious names of cities and businesses," said Lageson. "There was no reason not to 'play' Nevada City and the names of the businesses. With a Christmas movie, it's wonderful exposure. They get played every year. This movie is a constant reminder of how wonderful Nevada City and Victorian Christmas are."

Boost to the bottom line

The chamber has a prominent section of its website devoted to the film and its storyline: Cody Cullen, a soldier serving in Afghanistan, receives an anonymous holiday card that touches him deeply. While on leave back home, he travels to Nevada City, the picturesque town from which the card was sent. There, Cody meets and falls in love with Faith Spelman, who sent the card, and quickly becomes a cherished member of the Spelman family.

The chamber sells DVD copies of the movie. The office had 25 on hand in August and they were all sold before the Christmas season got underway.

Another venue selling the $8 DVDs is the Nevada City United Methodist Church, which is the setting for several scenes in the movie. The church sells at least 25 DVD copies per year.

"People come to the church because they love the movie," said Pastor Kris Sachen. "People are just really touched by this movie."

Sachen had a particularly poignant encounter with a wounded war veteran who visited the church last Christmas.

"During the prayers, he said something about veterans so I went to talk to him," recalled Sachen. "He said when he was wounded in Afghanistan, he saw the movie and was so touched by it he vowed he would come see this place. He so believed in the goodness of people during that time he was wounded, that he wanted to see a place where people are good. Not just the church, but all of Nevada City."

Nevada City Classic Café owner Kirk Valentine said the movie continues to generate business for his restaurant more than a decade after its release.

"The restaurant was featured in the film in two key scenes," said Valentine, who was an extra in one of those scenes. "We have people coming into the restaurant who say they saw the film and want to see what this little town is all about. They love the portrayal of our city and they wish they could be part of a city like this sometime, somewhere."

The café promotes its connection to "The Christmas Card" on its website, and also features the DVD cover at its entrance.

"There's absolutely no question it has helped our bottom line," said Valentine. "People want to see this little restaurant and connect and be part of what the movie was all about."

Celebrating the season, city

The movie was as much about Nevada City and its residents as it was the characters and its romantic plot. At the time of the filming, screenwriter Joany Kane said, "It was a match made in heaven. The city really is a character in the movie."

Producer Lageson was familiar with Nevada City because both his parents grew up there.

"The original script set the story in Vermont," said Lageson, adding that budget constraints made filming in Vermont impossible. "We realized we were limited to Northern California. As I read the script, in my mind it screamed Nevada City."

Lageson contacted Whittlesey at the chamber and asked her to send him picture postcards of Nevada City and Victorian Christmas.

"I walked into the offices at Hallmark, laid down those postcards in front of everyone, and it was a unanimous 'yes' that we'd go to Nevada City," recalled Lageson.

Producers and others working on the movie were in town for eight weeks and actual filming took 24 days in February 2005 — with Victorian Christmas scenes staged for the film. When the movie was released, a special screening was held in Nevada City.

Just as the movie has helped put Nevada City "on the map," one local business has literally put the movie on a map.

Erin Thiem, owner of the Outside Inn in Nevada City, combined her extensive photography skills with a hand-drawn map of Nevada City to create a "Christmas Card" venue walking tour.

"We've had the map for over five years," said Theim. "A 'Christmas Card' movie fan will visit us from far-flung locations and ask for the map. It's a unique bunch of Hallmark fans who travel, who watched this movie, and decided to come to the actual place where it was filmed. They want to relive the experiences from the movie."

Lageson said even he is surprised at the long-term impact the movie has had.

"I knew it'd be special," said Lageson. "I knew the movie was going to be beautiful and look amazing, but I did not realize how much the movie would resonate with viewers. I've had people tell me the movie has become what 'It's a Wonderful Life' was for an older generation. Now younger families consider 'The Christmas Card' their family holiday treat together."

"I'm in awe that it has happened like this," said Whittlesey. "Who would have thought one movie would bring so much to this town?"

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.

KNOW & GO

WHAT: Victorian Christmas

WHERE: Nevada City

WHEN: 5-9 p.m. Wednesdays, Dec. 13 & 20.

1:30-6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17.

WEBSITE: NevadaCityChamber.com