When TV's TBS broadcast "A Christmas Story" 24-Hour Mararthon in the '90s, the movie gained further momentum, as well as the accessibility of video and DVD versions.
What's made it an enduring classic?
"Most importantly, it's about a family," says Billingsley. "We've seen the 'dark' families of the '70s and in some cases 'perfect' families. But this was a family in which people could relate.
There were also, he says, the great set pieces in the movie involving a kid's tongue getting frozen to a flagpole, pink bunny pajamas and a leg lamp.
Those scenes are in the musical and "you can feel the excitement in the audience when they know what's coming up," says Billingsley.
"A Christmas Story" Trivia:
•Jack Nicholson was interested in playing Ralphie's dad.
•Jean Shepherd and Clark did a follow-up film in 1994 — though not officially a sequel — called "My Summer Story" (also titled "It Runs in My Family") with Charles Grodin as the father, Mary Steenburgen as the mother and Kieran Culkin as the kid.
•Though "A Christmas Story" never had a feature film holiday sequel, last year there was "A Christmas Story 2" which takes place five years later and centers on Ralphie wanting a car was released directy to home video. The film starred Daniel Stern.
•The house that served as the family's home is now a private museum in Cleveland.
•Versions of the leg lamp can be purchased in the lobby during the run, just in time for holiday giving.
•Billingsley still has the Red Ryder BB gun.
A CHRISTMAS STORY plays the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, Nov. 12 to 17. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25.50 to $95.50, not including fees. Information: 860-987-5900 and www.bushnell.org.