DIYer Does Temporary Theater for $2,300
Shawn Lyman didn’t need his theater to last forever. However, he did need it to be cheap.
Not including the home theater PC, Shawn Lyman spent approximately $2,300 on his entire theater.
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March 02, 2009 by Rachel Cericola

Shawn Lyman has to laugh. He sees “Electronic House” profile $25,000—and even $5,000—theaters as “budget.” However, he is the biggest super-saver of them all. He spent a mere $2,000 on his theater room, and has never looked back—except to check in on his equipment, of course. 

Shawn didn’t want to put too much money into the room. After all, he doesn’t plan to live in this house forever. “If the next owner doesn’t want to purchase the theater with the house, I wanted an easy way to remove everything about the theater in the shortest time possible,” he says. This is one of the reasons that he installed removable risers. “I estimate a single weekend room restore with zero impact on flooring or the riser.”

Aside from potential moving plans, Shawn also liked the challenge of keeping costs down. After all, it was one of the main reasons he hadn’t tackled the project previously. He chose lower cost components, such as an Onkyo HDMI-ready home-theater-in-a-box system, and his Optoma 720p projector. He also relied heavily on help from the AVS Forum

While many audiophiles may pooh-pooh Shawn’s decision to add a 720p projector, it has served him well for over two years. Optoma’s unit was the first 720p DLP projectors under the $1,000 mark, and he was eager at that time (and price). “At 100 inches, I love the 720p and really only think the 1080p would be helpful over a 100-inch screen size,” he says. “You just can’t resolve the detail differences between 720p and 1080p at those smaller sizes at 10- to 15-feet viewing distances… It doesn’t really matter that it’s 720p or 1080p. It’s HD.” Of course, he’s hoping that the new house will warrant a larger screen—and a 1080p projector. 

Another way Shawn cut costs was to build his own screen. It was better than the days when he used to shine that image on the wall, and even better than when he bought a “nice” pull-down screen. “Not only did the picture not really look much better than a white wall, it looked ugly on the ceiling and when pulled down,” he says. So for $50, he bought blackout cloth for the screen and black felt for the border. “And with the way its attached to the wall, it has a floating appearance,” he says. “I get many comments on the screen and people looking behind it to see how it’s attached.” 

He knew how to find and even build to keep under budget, but that doesn’t mean that Shawn didn’t splurge a little. Shawn has a dedicated PC hidden in the spare closet directly behind the rear seating wall, which is tied to both his surround sound receiver and projector. Aside from photo slideshows, gaming, music, and DVR features, he can also store plenty of media on over 1TB of internal but shared network drive space. “Browsing the web and working with documents at 100 inches is probably pretty geeky with my wireless keyboard.” 

Geeky is pretty great, though—and Shawn seems to relish every minute he’s spent in this room, even during the building process. “We have greatly enjoyed the theater experience while staying home with the kids for the past 2+ years,” he says. However, after five years and two kids, he wouldn’t mind that move coming sooner than later. “I look forward to building my second theater!” 

Click here to view photos of Shawn’s theater.

Quick Hits
Location: Sherwood, Oregon
Year Completed: 2006
Room Size: 18 x 12.5 feet
Length of Project: 6-8 days
Total Cost: $2,300 (equipment & risers)

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Rachel Cericola - Contributing Writer
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at

Equipment List

Onkyo HT-S907 Home Theater in a Box
Optoma HD70 Projector
Sony PlayStation 3
Custom Vista MCE HTPC
Homemade 100-inch 16:9 Fixed Matte Screen

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