Tis the season and the bells are ringing - especially at cinema cash registers. As cinema operators here tell Life!, business booms whenever Christmas season rolls around.

Christmas movies for 2012
Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman star in the highly-anticipated film adaptation of Les Miserables, opening on December 25

Mr Rudy Marianto, vice-president of film marketing at Shaw Organisation which operates Shaw Theatres, says: "We notice more families and couples take time out to watch movies together as part of their holiday programme."

Another spokesman for Shaw Cinemas estimates that Christmas box-office earnings across all Singapore cinemas are about "15 per cent higher than normal dates".

Golden Village (GV) did not provide specific figures, saying that it depends on the titles on offer. Still, a spokesman says that its cinemas "generally enjoy higher admission during the peak festive periods", including Christmas and school holidays.

The healthy box office over Christmas is only second to the box-office earnings during the Chinese New Year period, which the GV spokesman says could be due to more "local and Asian titles being released then".

The healthy cinema attendances for the holidays explain why film distributors are not too concerned that their movies will go unwatched despite the crowded film schedule. Over the two weeks surrounding Christmas this year, 12 new films will open.

Many point out that the genres of the films are different, which means they will appeal to different niches.

Shaw's distribution arm, for example, will bring in Korean erotic drama Red Vacance Black Wedding as well as Hollywood thriller Arbitrage starring Richard Gere.

Disney, on the other hand, is distributing the animation Wreck-It Ralph, which a spokesman describes as "the only honest- to-goodness family and kid-friendly movie during the holiday period".

UIP is the only distributor that will open a new film on Christmas day itself, with the highly anticipated musical Les Miserables starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. Mr Nicholas Yong, managing director of UIP, says: "We are releasing on the same date with the US and typically releasing a movie on a public holiday boosts box-office numbers."

Golden Village Pictures is distributing Thai horror flick Countdown, Hollywood romantic comedy Playing For Keeps as well as CZ12, Jackie Chan's latest work and supposedly his last major action flick. The company has also invited Chan to come to Singapore to promote the film.

A Golden Village Pictures spokesman says: "CZ12 is one of the biggest Chinese blockbusters this December and with Jackie Chan coming to Singapore to promote the film on Dec 18, we are confident that it will give a big boost to the box office.

"As for Countdown, we hope to attract fans who like horror movies. I think audiences will be spoilt for choice with so many movies to choose from during this festive season."

Movie buff and public relations executive Mandy Tng, 29, is happy with the many choices on offer but wishes that there were "more festive offerings".

"I am taking leave during the Christmas season so I will have plenty of time to catch up on movies. But looking at this list of upcoming films, I will watch only the very cheery ones such as Wreck-It Ralph and maybe romantic comedy Playing For Keeps.

"Then I'll go home and take out all my old Christmas movie DVDs and go through them. I won't watch the horror or thriller stuff during Christmas."

Fellow movie fan and IT sales representative Lin Younan, 32, has a different opinion. "I'm a thriller fan, so I'm glad that film distributors are bringing in these movies, even if they are not very 'Christmasy'."

"I think I will watch 388 Arletta Avenue - the story sounds creepy and intriguing."

Shaw's Mr Marianto says: "The titles released have different themes and may appeal to different groups of audiences. One thing is certain though - patrons will have more than the usual number of film choices this festive period."

Christmas movies for 20121. WRECK-IT RALPH

Opens: Dec 20

Genre: Children’s animation

Stars: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Mindy Kaling

What: This 3-D animated feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios tells the story of an arcade game villain (Reilly) who dreams of becoming a hero. Directed by Rich Moore, who also directed episodes of cartoon series The Simpsons and Futurama, the film has grossed US$150.8million (S$183.8 million) in the United States since its premiere on Nov 2.

Christmas movies for 20122. JACK REACHER

Opens: Dec 20

Genre: Thriller

Stars: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Robert Duvall

What: An adaptation of author Lee Child’s 2005 novel One Shot, the story follows former military officer Jack Reacher (Cruise) as he gets embroiled in a complex case involving a sniper who shot five random victims.

The thriller is written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who also wrote The Usual Suspects (1995), the neo-noir flick that earned him an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1996.

Christmas movies for 20123. CZ12

Opens: Dec 20

Genre: Action comedy

Stars: Jackie Chan

What: Said to be Chan’s last major action flick, this is the third film in his Armour Of God series, which has the gongfu superstar reprising the role of Asian Hawk, an adventurer not unlike Indiana Jones.

Here, Asian Hawk must track down 12 bronze statues of the Chinese zodiac (the title’s “CZ”) that were looted from Beijing’s Summer Palace in the late 19th century.

Not one to mark the end of his quick-paced action movie career quietly, Chan, 58, is evidently very personally invested in this film as he is also the writer, producer and director of the work.

Christmas movies for 20124. PLAYING FOR KEEPS

Opens: Dec 20

Genre: Romantic comedy

Stars: Gerard Butler, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jessica Biel, Judy Greer, Uma Thurman

What: A romantic comedy about a former soccer star and single dad (Butler) who finds himself the accidental coach to his son’s soccer team. He soon becomes the object of affection for a number of beautiful soccer moms (played by Zeta-Jones, Thurman and Greer).

Although he enjoys the attention, he is also torn by the fact that his ex-wife (Biel) is getting ready to remarry.

Christmas movies for 20125. THE LAST TYCOON

Opens: Jan 3

Genre: Period drama

Stars: Chow Yun Fat, Huang Xiaoming, Francis Ng, Sammo Hung

What: Directed by Hong Kong film-maker Wong Jing, this movie follows grocery store worker Cheng (Chow) and his rise through the ranks of the shady mob world in 1930s Shanghai, eventually becoming one of the most powerful mob bosses in the city.

Christmas movies for 20126. LES MISERABLES

Opens: Dec 25

Genre: Musical drama

Stars: Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe

What: The only film opening on Christmas day this year, this highly anticipated film version of the beloved stage musical of the same name – which, in turn, is based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel – stars Jackman as Jean Valjean, a Frenchman prisoner who is on the run from Inspector Javert (Crowe).

Directed by Tom Hooper, who won a Best Director Oscar for The King’s Speech (2010), the film received a standing ovation at its first screening in New York last week to an audience comprising top guild members who vote for Hollywood’s top awards, such as the Oscars.

Christmas movies for 20127. ARBITRAGE

Opens: Dec 27

Genre: Thriller drama Stars: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Laeticia Casta

What: Gere stars as billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Miller, who has manipulated his company’s books to cover an investment loss. Later, he gets into an accident which kills his fellow passenger and mistress (Casta). He tries to hide his involvement in both cases from the authorities and his wife (Sarandon).

Reviews for the movie have been generally favourable and it made close to US$8 million, despite being given only a very limited release of 197 cinemas.

Christmas movies for 20128. THE GUILLOTINES

Opens: Dec 27

Genre: Period action

Stars: Huang Xiaoming, Shawn Yue, Ethan Juan, Jing Boran

What: Directed by Andrew Lau of Infernal Affairs (2002) fame and produced by heavyweight Peter Chan (Wuxia, 2011), this loose remake of the Shaw Brothers classic The Flying Guillotine (1974) is about a team of elite fighters working for the Chinese emperor. Their lethal weapon of choice? Flying swords known as guillotines.

With a cast that brings together top talents from Taiwan, China and Hong Kong, this US$15-million blockbuster is one of the most anticipated Chinese-language films of the year.

Christmas movies for 20129. AMOUR

Opens: Dec 27

Genre: Drama

Stars: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert

What: This French-language offering from Austrian film-maker Michael Haneke (White Ribbon, 2009) has been doing the rounds on the global film festival circuit, garnering praise and picking up awards along the way. At the 25th European Film Awards in Malta over the weekend, it won four awards including for Best Film and Best Director.

The story focuses on an elderly couple whose bond of love is severely tested when the wife suffers a stroke. A sweet love story that is a distinct departure from the acclaimed director’s usual fare.

Christmas movies for 201210. RED VACANCE BLACK WEDDING

Opens: Dec 27

Genre: Erotic drama

Stars: Ahn Ji Hye, Jo Mun Sook, Oh In Hye, Jo Sun Mook

What: This Korean flick is made up of two separate stories about illicit affairs. "Red Vacance" follows a married couple, where the wife discovers that her husband has been cheating on her with a young woman for six years. The wife then plots and brings all three of them together in a remote holiday home in the hills.

In "Black Wedding", a professor has to officiate the wedding of a former student, with whom he once had a passionate affair.

Christmas movies for 201211. WON’T BACK DOWN

Opens: Dec 27

Genre: Drama

Stars: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Holly Hunter

What: Two mothers – one a bartender and the other a teacher – are determined to transform their children’s failing inner-city school for the better. This means having to battle a powerful and corrupt school bureaucracy.

The film has received mixed reviews since its premiere in the United States in September, but Davis (The Help, 2011) and Gyllenhaal (Hysteria, 2011, both above) have been praised for their performances.

Christmas movies for 201212. COUNTDOWN

Opens: Dec 27

Genre: Horror

Stars: Pachara Chirathivat, Jarinporn Junkiet, Pataraya Krueasuwansiri

What: The Thais are great at delivering creepy horror movies and this one stars popular actor Chirathivat (Suckseed, 2011; The Billionaire, 2011). Playing a rich boy studying in New York City, he contacts a shady drug dealer to bring in some drugs for his upcoming New Year’s Eve party. Things soon spiral out of control when the partygoers find themselves trying to escape from the psychotic drug dealer.

This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on December 5, 2012. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.