NEW BRITAIN - A crowd of people surrounded Amatoâ€™s Toy and Hobby store Wednesday afternoon as filming for â€śChristmas Hoursâ€ť - a new Christmas movie featuring TV stars Mario Lopez and Melissa Joan Hart - began.
Toy store owner Steve Amato said the production crew was in his shop on Main Street until 2 a.m. Wednesday morning to set up, and returned again at 7 a.m. to finish.
On Tuesday, crews filmed exterior shots on Main Street in Bristol at the former Barley Vine gastro pub and The Shaffer Company, which were transformed as toy stores during Christmas time.
The interior of Amatoâ€™s Toy and Hobby store will be redesigned into two separate toy stores-owned by Lopez and Hartâ€™s characters.
The plot of the movie will center around two competing toy store owners who team up to battle a corporate store and fall in love.
â€śThey promised itâ€™ll look just like it did before they started,â€ť Amato said laughing.
The back half of Amatoâ€™s will be Lopezâ€™s store, a more masculine looking shop for toys like model trains and airplanes while the front half will be Hartâ€™s store, one that is more feminine and â€śdolled up.â€ť
Amato said itâ€™s funny the stores are split up as they are because itâ€™s a reflection of how he and his sister run their businesses.
Amatoâ€™s sister owns the toy and hobby store location in Middletown. He said her location is prettier looking and more put together, while his is the opposite.
Although customers cannot go into the shop, Amato said employees will be working as much as they can to get specific items off the shelf if customers need to buy anything.
â€śItâ€™s exciting and a little crazy running around,â€ť Amatoâ€™s employee Sarah McMahon said.
The filmâ€™s producer, Andrew Gernhard, said it was really random how they selected the toy store for the movie.
He said four months ago while he was out eating at West Side Tavern, he had overheard Amato and his wife talking. Having shopped at the Amatoâ€™s location in Middletown, he learned about the location in New Britain. Two months ago when he learned he would be working on a movie about toy stores he instantly recalled the conversation with the Amatos.
â€śI didnâ€™t realize how large it [the New Britain store] was,â€ť Gernhard said.
He thought it would be the perfect location, and because of its size it was also convenient because they could redesign it as two locations.
Gernhard said the cast and crew will be filming most likely until 1 a.m. and will shoot at the toy store for six days on and off.
New Britain Police Officer Wojtek Sztachelski said the department is increasing patrols in the area and will have two officers stationed on the sets to ensure the safety of everyone.
Other locations for the movie shoot include City Hall, Central Connecticut State University and more yet to be determined.
Nicole Nauss of New Britain said she signed her family up to be extras on Thursday. She said they are all very excited to make their screen debuts.
For those interested in being an extra in the movie visit sci-casting.bubbleapps.io to sign up.