Smaller, intimate home theaters

May 16, 2005

plansFor some time now I’ve been exploring the idea of smaller, more intimate home theaters. i.e. Real-World Home Theaters. My firm designs, sells and installs home theaters that with build-out, equipment and design fees, can easily top out at well over 100k. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, it’s just that often these 40×60 monsters are owned and used by families with 4 or less members. Not surprisingly the construction based on square footage alone, often exceeds all other costs combined.

Typically, unless we can wrangle the client in before the basement floor plan has been finalized; we’re working with a “room” that already has its dimensions laid out. But in cases where we do have complete control of the construction process from start to finish, I’ve started doing some cost modeling to show our clients just where their theater dollars are being spent. The results are often surprising.

For example, I recently met with a client who stated “I want to use this area for the home theater” pointing to what appeared to me, as a monstrous unallocated, unfinished portion of the basement. Ok.. I said, beginning to carefully construct my next few sentences, I asked him how many family members would be using the theater? Three he said, “Myself, my wife and our oldest, although he’ll soon be off at college”. So for in essence two users I was being asked to allocate over 1000 sq feet for a dedicated home theater (I kept picturing my first apartment, all 750 sq feet of it).


Let’s discuss some options I said, I showed him how with some simple reallocation of the unfinished space we could, stay within our initial budget, and still (deep breath) provide a better projector, a larger touch screen control interface, add lighting control, take all of the audio gear (amplification and speakers) up several notches in their respective lines, and still have seating for eight guests, (in-hale).

With all that said, I wanted to double check that I hadn’t overlooked his desire to start a bed and breakfast inn and show movies in the theater for all his guest’s, so I coyly asked, would the six additional recliners, to the ones you and your wife sit in be enough? He laughed and said “heck we don’t even have that many over at Christmas”. I think I did the right thing here; I increased his overall performance in all aspects of the theater, and hadn’t reduced his room size in any way that would impact friends/guests from enjoying it along with him.


Home Theater Design Considerations:

My point is, I think, often times when clients approach a custom A/V integrator with interest in a custom home theater, it’s just possible that all of the elaborate home theater ads in magazines may be clouding their judgment. In other words, unless you regularly entertain 4 to 6 guests at a time, a two row theater may be more than enough. I’m all for the proper build-out of rooms, the key word is proper, and keeping in mind that once the lights are off, it’s all about the movie, and not how many rows of recliners you’ve managed to squeeze into the room.

There are a few other things to keep in mind when designing and building these “small theaters” I don’t know about you, but I would rather sit a little closer to a 92″ screen than push back away from a 100” mondo sized screen, and potentially waste another 5k in doing so. For one thing a projector that can adequately handle the light requirements of a 100” screen, is often nearly twice the cost of a simple 720p DLP projector that looks great on a 92″ screen, and with smaller video artifacts to boot.

More often than not, the main reason I see folks going with screen sizes 100″ and above, is nothing more than playing catch up with the room size, if the dimensions of the room are kept in check, in most cases (of course there are exceptions) a 92″ screen is more than sufficient for a true home theater experience.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Home Theater Design


Comments

  • Alfred Anyia

    I am doing a new home construction and I have a room dedicated for a home theater. Can you recommend someone (inexpensive but cretative) to do a design for me.

    Alfred Anyia

  • Alfred Anyia

    I am doing a new home construction and I have a room dedicated for a home theater. Can you recommend someone (inexpensive but cretative) to do a design for me.

    Alfred Anyia

  • eric lorde

    I am looking for and affordable projector. I recently bought my first home and there is an existing rear Projector (Huge w/ 3 large lens, very old) the area this equipment is in is approx 140 sq ft. i dont know how long this old projector will last as well as this really isnt bad. Screen is built in the wall and is 53″ . This will basically be for watching movies and football season. Your response would greatly be appreciated.
    Eric Lorde

  • eric lorde

    I am looking for and affordable projector. I recently bought my first home and there is an existing rear Projector (Huge w/ 3 large lens, very old) the area this equipment is in is approx 140 sq ft. i dont know how long this old projector will last as well as this really isnt bad. Screen is built in the wall and is 53″ . This will basically be for watching movies and football season. Your response would greatly be appreciated.
    Eric Lorde

  • Newbie Gray

    Hi I’m trying to decide on a screen size for my dedicated home theater room. My basement room is 13’6″w x 18’L x 8’h I’ll be doing a ceiling mount and have a Panasonic PTAE2000U with 1500 lum quoted. I can put seating anywhere from 11- 16 feet. Your help is greatly appreciated!!

    Gray

  • Newbie Gray

    Hi I’m trying to decide on a screen size for my dedicated home theater room. My basement room is 13’6″w x 18’L x 8’h I’ll be doing a ceiling mount and have a Panasonic PTAE2000U with 1500 lum quoted. I can put seating anywhere from 11- 16 feet. Your help is greatly appreciated!!

    Gray