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How, when to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ on TV

The James Stewart holiday classic will be shown on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, or may be streamed free.

George Bailey (James Stewart) celebrates with wife Mary (Donna Reed) and daughter Zuzu (Karolyn Grimes) in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Since Thanksgiving is the traditional kickoff to the Christmas season, why not start the day with the quintessential Christmas movie?

USA Network is scheduled to screen “It’s a Wonderful Life” at 5 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, giving early risers (and video time-shifters) a dose of James Stewart at his most tear-jerking.

The cable channel also will show the film on Dec. 11 and 12. Those likely will be the last times to see a scheduled presentation of the 1946 Frank Capra classic until NBC’s customary airing on Christmas Eve.

But subscribers to cable, satellite or streaming services may watch the movie anytime, for free, at USA’s site at

The Music Box Theatre is projecting “It’s a Wonderful Life” onto the big drive-in screen at Chi-Town Movies, 2343 S. Throop St. The four showtimes are Dec. 11-24 and include a sing-along with Santa, carolers and an organist. Tickets:

It’s also available for rental or purchase on digital sites including iTunes and Amazon, and can be seen on DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Blu-Ray and dusty VHS tapes in people’s basements.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” gave Stewart a signature role as George Bailey, a kindhearted lender who loses the will to live after a financial setback, and is shown by an angel how his small town would have been worse off had he never been born.