Winsted’s Gilson Cinema & Cafe adding live music in post-pandemic plans

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WINSTED – Alan Nero and his son Alan Jr., owners of Gilson Cinema & Café on Main Street, will soon add a live music series to the theater’s offering.

The theater struggled during the pandemic, but the community has been overwhelmingly supportive, the Neros said, and the concert series is a gift for those who kept coming. It’s also a way for the venue to stay relevant and provide entertainment for everyone, not just movies.

The Gilson, formerly known as The Strand, was a vaudeville theater built in 1926. Alan Nero Sr. purchased the building in 1985. Spaces inside, including a large lower level and lounge at the ‘floor, have hosted concerts and films of all kinds, from vintage films to second-run films, including “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” which ran for 35 weeks by popular demand.


Today, the Gilson performs “F9”, the latest installment in the “Fast and Furious” series; “In the Heights”, based on the popular musical; and “12 Mighty Orphans”, about a football team and its dedicated coach with a mysterious past.

“We still have first-run movies, but the pandemic has driven the movie industry into the ground,” Nero Sr. said. “They don’t know what’s going to come out next because so much has been canceled or postponed. “

The films will continue, the Neros said. But turning the main viewing room into a concert hall on weekends will help.

“The movie industry is in such a roller-coaster ride right now that it’s hard to trust movies alone. We wanted to do more, ”said Nero Jr.

The summer concert series will begin on July 20 with Franck Vignola with Vinny raniolo and Nicki parrott, perform jazz music; followed on July 24 with the Houston Bernard Group, playing country and rock. On August 17, the theater will host Neal and the vipers, a rock and blues band. The series is scheduled to end on August 24 with Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez, a rock and blues band. Ohlman is known as “The Beehive Queen” and is a popular artist up and down the East Coast.

All concerts start at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $ 25 to $ 30 and can be purchased in advance at www.gilsoncafecinema.com/liveperformances.

To find performers for the series, Nero Jr. turned to his aunt, Candice Nero, who has run a music festival in Moodus for many years. “She has so much experience and has been such a mentor with it,” he said. “It’s been a lot of work to put it all together, and she has helped us get back on our feet. She’s been doing it for so long, it was a great opportunity.

“We went from talking about it one day to four reserved acts the next day,” he said. “This series is also an opportunity for Winsted. We want to breathe new life into the city and the theater, like a kind of love letter to the community for helping us. “

Finding bands to play hasn’t been quick and easy, said Nero Jr.. “A lot of them perform online, and they still shake the dust after being away from the stage for so long, and they regain their balance. Fortunately, Aunt Candy helped us find them. I think we looked at about 4,000 groups last month.

Nero Jr. is a guitarist, singer, and drummer who lived in New York City for years, pursuing his own professional music career. After a group he joined lost their leader, Nero Jr. began to pursue a career as a writer. He published his first work of fiction, “The Book of Virgil”, and returned to school to study screenwriting. Then the pandemic struck, and he and his fiancee returned to Winsted to work with his father. He still writes books and scripts.

“We’ve all been involved in music for years, so this series is a collaboration of all the things I’ve learned so far,” he said. “I fell back into roles that I had here before. … I took on the role of interim manager when dad had to be away. It was awesome.

“Dealing with bands is not easy,” said Nero Sr.. “It used to be that we had live gigs here – we had Little Feat, Maynard Ferguson… but it’s a lot of work. So we turned to the movies instead.

Nero Jr. is already working on having more live music shows to continue through the fall. “We will have local numbers, with music that everyone can enjoy,” he said.

The Gilson also has a Mexican restaurant, Padre, which is run by Lacey Lizzi, tucked away under the marquee. The cantina is open at 3 p.m. and runs a busy take-out business, and has a bar and indoor seating.

The seats in the theater are grouped together, rather than traditional rows, giving people plenty of room to stretch their legs. For concerts, there is room in front to dance, in front of the stage under the cinema screen.

“The difference here at the Gilson is that our theater has coffee service and it’s very comfortable,” said Nero Sr. “People come in, order food, sit down and watch a movie. It’s very relaxing and people really enjoy it.

For more information visit www.gilsoncafecinema.com.


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