Sometimes, going to the movies just isn’t worth the price of admission. Modern Home Theaters deliver the drama without the hassles.
Going to the movies can feel more like a two-hour exercise in patience than a relaxing break for entertainment. From the moment you enter the building, you’re faced with lines. There are lines for tickets, lines for refreshments, for condiments, bathrooms, and once you’ve waited in all these, you queue up again, to hand in your ticket in exchange for passage past the velvet rope, where you’re promised to be whisked away into a world of imagination.
But movie theater distractions make it hard to suspend disbelief. Cell phones ring—and people answer them. “I’m at the movies. What’s up?…” People sneeze and cough and blow their noses. Young kids whine, cellophane wrappers crackle and you squirm in your uncomfortable seat, wishing you had waited for the DVD release.
And maybe next time you will, but the looming screen and surround sound transport you in a way that the small screen can’t. So have it both ways: create the perfect movie theater experience, sans interruptions and distractions, in your own home.
If bad experiences at the movies don’t convince you, what about the prospect of spending more time with your family? Like radios and color TVs, home theaters bring family and friends together under one roof.
But the best part is, home theaters and the components that make up home theaters have been around for a while. To the consumer, that means two wonderful things: more options, and lower prices.
Getting a home theater, or transforming a ho-hum TV room into a cinematic dream palace takes planning. First, you need to decide on a budget. You’re going to come across a lot of gorgeous furniture, extraordinary electronics and convincing salespeople that could deplete your funds unnecessarily. So once you’ve fixed a budget limit, you’ll need to decide what items you want and how much you’re willing to pay for each.
That’s Assuming You’ve Selected A Room
Theo Kalomirakis, dubbed the “Father of the Home Theater” for the work he does through his award winning interior architecture firm, Theo Kalomirakis Theaters, points out that room selection is key in building a perfect home theater experience. He notes that people tend to use whatever room is available. This, he says, is not always the best choice. Think of acoustics. The optimum room is windowless with proper height to width proportions.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a space like this available. Starting with a room that has windows, or is very large but with a low ceiling, can be okay. Sound problems can be remedied with special wall and ceiling treatments, even with the flooring or furniture you choose. But additions aren’t for modest budgets — think $200-$400 a square foot — to start.
If you covet caviar but are on a deviled egg budget, then make do with a space you already have. Just make sure it’s large enough to accommodate the seating and the screen sizes you want. Check CrutchfieldAdvisor.com, the A/V information resource, for optimum viewing distance based on your screen size.
Generally, the rule of thumb is to keep the seating a distance of 2.5 times the screen width or more. So, a screen width of 55” requires a viewing distance of 11.5’.
And What About That Screen?
David Hsieh, president of the consumer electronics company Pixa inc., is not alone in recommending front projection televisions as the best option for home theaters. Front projectors are small units, updated versions of old slide projectors, mounted to project a screen size of up to 300″ wherever it’s pointed. Front projectors boast an extremely clear, high definition picture and take up minimal space. It’s what Hsieh has at home, and he says, his kids enjoy it as much as he does. “They play their video games and race cars are twice the size of the real thing. Mario looks like a giant.”
But he says, just because the projector can be used at 300″ doesn’t mean it always is. It can be made as small as you like and still be stunningly clear. Hsieh compares it to having a Porsche. “If you want to drive it at 150 mph, the car can do it, but you’re probably not going to drive it that fast.”
Not sold on front projection? Dennis Eppel, Product Manager for the Display Group at Panasonic, has another suggestion: plasma. It’s a simple solution for home theater owners looking for an attractive TV that can be hung on the wall or placed on a stand. Plasmas can be integrated just as easily with theater rooms as with multi-media rooms, where video games and computer use are as important as movies, and sofas or sectionals are more common than theater seating. With plasma, you don’t get the enormous screen size you’ll find with front projection, but then, you don’t have to buy a projection screen or paint the wall flat white to accommodate viewing, either.
You’ll Need To Decide On Lighting, Too
This is an area of home theater design with more options and combinations than a Las Vegas buffet. Michael Berman of Lamps Plus, the nation’s largest specialty lighting company, offers some suggestions on how to wade through the choices and come up with the necessities.
Think of the experience you find at a real movie theater, he says. The lights dim before the feature. During the movie, low floor level lights guide people out of the theater in the dark. And think of the screen – lights must be carefully positioned to avoid glare. Most often, Berman says, this demands wall sconces and ambient lighting.
Think about how closely you want to emulate the movie theater experience, and you’ll know if you need dimmers or whether you want to have all the lights in your room wired to one control, which you can use to adjust any light in the room. An expert can design a lighting system for you based on your specific needs.
The Same Goes For Speakers
You’ll find endless speaker options, from tiny wireless hideaways to gorgeous, one of kind artwork versions. Before deciding, figure out whether you want a 5:1 system or a 7:1 system, and you’ll need to untangle the jargon of receivers, amplifiers, tuners, inputs and outputs. Not sure what all this means? Tweeter, an industry respected name in mid to high end consumer electronics, offers a significant research section on their website, and in-home installations. Another excellent resource, Home Theater 101, at aperionaudio.com, offers easy to read, simplified explanations specifically for novices.
But The Best Part Of All This Is Selecting The Furniture
Some theater design firms work with theater seating manufacturers and carry their lines, and a variety of high-end manufacturers carry modern design specifically for home theater. When it comes to seating, the lounge is king.
Having a home theater put in is akin to redoing a kitchen. A lot goes into it, but, as you’ll find on rainy days, family days and Super Bowl game days, the rewards are many.