Tom Kern was more than happy to be the guinea pig for his and his son’s foray into home theater design and installation. After all, he’d always loved movies as a kid. “Most of my childhood Saturday mornings were spent at the Palace Theater, two blocks from my home,” he recalls.
Starting with Style
Those early theater-going days would serve as Tom’s inspiration as he dedicated three years to transforming a second-floor bonus room into a replica ‘50s-style cinema.
Before diving into the build-out of the 38-by-14-foot space, Tom focused on collecting decorative pieces that would evoke the same look and feel of his childhood haunt. This turned out to be more difficult than he imagined. “I really had to persevere,” he says.
Finally, after three years of combing eBay and traveling across the country to pick up his finds, Tom had gathered his key pieces, some of which include original 1950s movie posters for The War of the Worlds, Them! and Flight to Mars. There would also be plenty of items from actual old movie theaters, such as a 1940s ticket collection box, a vintage illuminated exit sign, and real theater seats.
Building a Framework
All the while, Tom sketched, queried A/V dealers for their advice on equipment and read every book and magazine available on home theater construction. After clearing out his garage to serve as his workshop, Tom started the room redo by painting the ceiling a shade of dark blue. It took more than four coats—in addition the primer—to cover the existing white surface.
Next, Tom prepped an existing alcove for the addition a 92-inch Da-Lite screen and three B&W speakers. Using 2x4s, he constructed a false wall for the screen and a hollow stage in which to stow the speakers. Acoustone grille cloth was stapled to the bottom portion of the stage so that the speakers could be hidden yet heard clearly. In keeping with the movie palace theme, Tom installed two separate motorized drapery systems, both of which can be operated via a remote control. One motorized assembly pulls the draperies vertically to reveal the screen, the other set moves horizontally.
On to the projector and seats: Using recommendations from Sanyo (the brand of projector he selected), he plotted out the optimal locations of both, and built two seating platforms comprised of the same materials (two sheets of 3/4-inch plywood interleaved with 30-pound roofing felt and a top layer of Pergo laminated wood flooring) as the subfloor. “The roofing felt helps eliminate rattles caused by low-frequency sounds,” Tom explains.
Tom finished off his theater by building six fabric wall panels—basically a wooden frame covered in fabric. A glutton for punishment, Tom didn’t stick with a standard rectangular shape. Rather, he curved the corners of each panel and glued and stapled on moldings for embellishment.
As proud as he is of his accomplishment, Tom is quick to point out that he did hire professionals to help with a few aspects his theater install: a local custom drapery designer made all of the curtains, swags, and valances; a licensed electrician installed a sub-panel circuit breaker box, the light fixtures and switches; and a local carpet company laid the carpet.
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Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.