December 20, 2007
| by Rachel Cericola
There is an explanation for this, you know. —Ash, Alien, 1979
Indeed, there is an explanation for this spectacular sci-fi-themed theater, owned by self-proclaimed mad scientist, Dr. David Winn. “I love classic horror flicks and science fiction, and over the years I picked up some full size replicas at good prices,” says Winn. “I figured I needed a movie room to display them.”
So with a little web research and the help of his wife and Scott Messenger of Austin, TX installation firm Escom, he created this hellish home theater. Winn’s theater certainly isn’t one of the grandest we’ve seen; at 25 by 35 feet, it’s more like a close encounter. That’s befitting for this home-theater creature, which features some of Winn’s favorite movie monsters spitting, busting through walls and the ceiling, and making visitors quiver once the lights go dim.
Portholes around the room allow you to look out over the galaxy, but it’s up on the 144-inch screen that Winn achieves “suspension of disbelief” by depicting a spaceship in high Earth orbit. When it comes to other audio and video equipment, that movie magic is organized in an equipment stack at the back of the room. Two smaller screens compliment the main screen up front. “It becomes a great sports bar during football season,” Winn says.
For many, however, it’s not the screens or the awesome theater sounds that most remember—it’s the animatronics. For instance, there’s an Alien automated with hydraulics and an air compressor. “When steam starts blasting from ceiling vents and the Alien lurches through the wall, you hear friends scream expletives like ‘holy (expletive)’—and then request to borrow a clean pair of underwear,” says Winn. That’s understandable considering that as well as other room highlights, which include full-sized caged homages to the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Predator, a Robbie the Robot, and creatures coming from both the couch and the ceiling. It looks like the ultimate, all-encompassing sci-fi wonderland, but Winn describes the theme of his room as more like a “spaceship transporting dangerous aliens.” Buckle up for the fantastic voyage, because you may have to share an armrest with the undead and inhuman on this ride.
Winn doesn’t seem creeped out by his subject matter or the effort involved in putting the place together. “Contrary to appearances, I’m actually a devout Christian who just happens to enjoy the macabre. I have a certain sense of pride since I put this together—all props and equipment included were less than $100,000,” he says, adding that the build-out budget consumed 40 percent of the costs.
One thing his budget couldn’t buy: recessed starlights. “We couldn’t recess the starports because the ceiling truss interfered with the light enclosures,” he says. “So we did the best we could do with them attached to the ceiling.” His best is more than good enough for us. Who could nit-pick? The army of darkness has his back.
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.