We’ve all done it: strolled through a car lot looking at luxury rides we’ll never afford, or visited million-dollar show homes for a glimpse of how the better half lives. For Jim Hollingsworth of The Woodlands, Texas, a home theater was his pie-in-the-sky ambition—and one that had occupied his thoughts for well over a decade.
He can blame his obsession on Audio Concepts. A friend took him to the high-end Houston-based A/V boutique in 2001 to find a new big-screen TV. It was there, in a dark, private demo room, that Hollingsworth experienced home cinema for the first time. He recalls: “The owner of the shop dimmed the lights and played Gladiator with Russell Crowe slaying the tiger in the Colosseum on a 65-inch TV. It was great … then he hit a button and down came a 100-inch screen and he asked me, ‘Do you want a TV or do you want a home theater?’ It was like asking a computer nerd, do you want dial-up or DSL? I was hooked, and all I could think about was how to get this kind of system into my house.”
Soon after, Hollingsworth contacted a contractor to discuss tearing off the roof of his master bedroom to build out a new space for a dedicated theater. Then 9/11 happened, the economy bottomed out, and Hollingsworth had to put his home theater plans on hold.
Fast-forward to 2009. Hollingsworth and his wife, Stacie, built a new house—and of course, included a room for a home theater. The 23-by-18-foot space sat vacant for about a year, though, as the couple put funds together for equipment and finished decorating the rest of their house. That gave Hollingsworth time to explore all of his options and to decide that it was wiser to buy a piece at a time than to throw something together quickly and cheaply.
After scouring product reviews, he settled on a Panasonic AE4000U projector ($2,000), a 150-inch Carada screen ($1,200), and swapped an old B&K Reference 50 preamp for an Anthem D2V ($7,500). An Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player ($500) took the place of an old bargain player. All of the equipment Hollingsworth installed himself, having run the low-voltage cabling while the room was being built.
It was a good start, but left plenty of room for improvement. “When you have champagne taste and a beer budget, you have to have some patience and buy a little at a time and be willing to do some of the work yourself,” he says.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.