Each time a group of people is asked to name their favorite Christmas movie, there are always many who vote for A Christmas Story.
Set in 1940s Indiana, the plot of the story reveals a young boy wishing for a Red Ryder Range 200 Shot BB gun for Christmas and a week of life in the Midwest during the holiday season seen through the eyes of a child.
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the film was directed by Bob Clark and starred Darren McGavin as the father, Melinda Dillon as the mother, Peter Billingsley as Ralphie, the main character of the film, and Ian Petrella as his brother, Randy.
The movie, which was released in November 1983, was the brainchild of the author Jean Shepherd who made a cameo as the father standing in line to see Santa and tells Ralphie and Randy to go to the back of the line which, according to Ralphie “stretched all the way to Terre Haute”. The movie was based on a short story from his book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. It was filmed in several different locations including the school scenes, the scenes that cover the family’s quest for a Christmas tree, the Chinese restaurant and the flat tire scenes which were all filmed in Ontario, Canada. The exterior of Ralphie’s house, the parade scene and the visit to Higbee’s department store were all filmed in Cleveland, Ohio with the unmistakable Soldiers and Sailor’s Monument in the background of the parade sequence filmed in Cleveland’s Public Square. The executives of the movie met with Bruce Campbell, the vice president of Higbee’s in downtown Cleveland who allowed them to film in the store as long as he had the authority to nix any profanities that may have been in the store scenes.
In 2004 the house used in A Christmas Story was put up for sale on eBay. San Diego resident, Brian Jones, who had already started a business, RedRiderLegLamps.com, selling the leg lamp featured in the movie, paid $150,000 for the house at 3159 W. 11th St. in Cleveland. After a complete restoration to recreate the house as it was shown in the movie at a price tag of $240,000, Jones opened the doors for tours in November 2006.
A museum and gift shop were constructed across the street where guests can purchase leg lamps, Ralphie’s secret decoder ring, bunny outfits and other souvenirs and collectibles. Visitors to the museum can see movie props such as Randy’s snowsuit, the family car, the original Red Ryder BB gun Ralphie received for Christmas and the props from Higbee’s department store windows.
The house and museum are open year round, excluding major holidays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and often extend the hours during the holiday season. Adults are charged $11.00 and children from the ages of 3 to 12 are charged $7.00. Senior citizens over 60 years old pay $9.00. Active duty and military vets get a 50% discount. Tours start at every half an hour and run for about thirty minutes.
Every year the Christmas Story House sets up an eBay auction for a Christmas stay in the house for four people and in 2016 the winning bid was for $6,200.00. The winners are treated to two nights in the house with $800 worth prizes from the gift shop, four tickets to Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, four tickets to the Great Lakes Science Center, located next to the Rock Hall, and $50 gift certificates to Grumpy’s Café and the Great Lakes Brewery.
Guests are greeted at the door on December 24th with a Major Award crate and crowbar to open the crate with the famous leg lamp inside. Decoder rings are placed in the mailbox for guests to find and keep them as a souvenir. Dinner is provided at the historic Rowley Inn, and back at the house, the movie is screened with snacks and drinks provided. Guests are free to sleep in Ralph and Randy’s bedroom.
On Christmas morning guests open gifts around the Christmas tree in the living room, including a bunny suit, a Red Ryder BB gun, and Christmas Story t-shirts and are treated to a basket of a dozen donuts provided by Jack Frost Donuts in Cleveland. Guests are encouraged to go into the back yard and shoot their new BB gun or play A Christmas Story monopoly game in the kitchen.
The day after Christmas the guests move to the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland for the night to visit the Rock Hall and Science Center and are provided with dinner at JACK Casino’s buffet.
All of the proceeds go toward the A Christmas Story House Foundation, a non-profit group established to restore and maintain the historical neighborhood surrounding the house. A Christmas Story House Foundation provides grants to qualified residents for home restoration projects as well.