This is the third in a series of stories looking back at the top news events of 2017.
NEW BRITAIN - As 2017 nears an end, The Herald takes a look back at some of the top arts and entertainment news in the Hardware City from two star- studded events to an expansion of its industrial past.
The biggest talk of the town was the Lifetime Christmas movie shot almost entirely in New Britain, “A Very Merry Toy Store.”
The Herald first reported in August that the film, featuring TV stars Mario Lopez and Melissa Joan Hart, was using Amato’s Toy and Hobby store at 283 Main St. as the main location. The interior of Amato’s was remodeled as two separate toy stores - Hart’s and Lopez’s.
“A Very Merry Toy Store” is about two competing toy store owners, played by Hart and Lopez, who team up together to fight off a corporate toy store. In the mix of taking down the corporate giant, the two characters end up falling in love.
Owner Steve Amato first told The Herald his shop was selected after a chance meeting with Andrew Gernhard, a producer with Synthetic Cinema, the Rocky Hill production company working on the film, earlier this year at West Side Tavern while out to dinner with his wife.
When Gernhard heard he would need a toy store for an upcoming movie, he immediately contacted Amato. Soon after, the whole production crew fell in love with New Britain.
Central Connecticut State University’s television studio was used in the filming process for its floor-to-ceiling green screen. Other locations featured in the film included City Hall, the Miss Washington Diner, Vic’s Auto Body Shop and the West End home of Gaffney Elementary School’s principal, Anita Fazio.
The parking lot off of Court Street was used to host a Christmas festival in the movie, and featured Alvarium Beer Co. and members of the Little Poland community.
The Bristol Public Library and the former Barley Vine gastro pub and The Shaffer Co. on Main Street in Bristol were also used as sets.
Just a few weeks ago the movie premiered on Lifetime and Steve and Sherri Amato hosted a viewing party with over 150 family members, friends and New Britain residents, many of whom were even extras in the film.
Sunny Los Angeles came to New Britain more than just once as the Museum of American Art hosted West Coast artists Billy Al Bengston and Ed Ruscha in June in part of the exhibit “California Dreaming: Ed Moses, Billy Al Bengston & Ed Ruscha.”
Slated as the largest show at the museum to date, it included almost 100 rarely seen and popular works from the artists. It was curated by Thomas Krens, director emeritus of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York.
The exhibition explored the postwar art scene in LA during the 1950s and 1960s at the Ferus Gallery - nicknamed the Cool School because of the experimental artwork that came out of it.
Speaking of the New Britain Museum of American Art, last month director of the New Britain Industrial Museum Karen Hudkins announced she would be leaving for a new job at an old employer - the NBMAA.
After just over seven years as the head of the industrial museum, Hudkins said she’d join the finance department at the art museum before the end of the year.
Under Hudkins’ leadership at the Industrial Museum, it moved to its ownstore front downtown for the first time after more than 20 years in the Central Connecticut State University ITBD building.
On Dec. 2 the Industrial Museum held a grand reopening at its new location at 59 W. Main St.