July 01, 2009
by Rachel Cericola
Randy Murray thinks of his theater as a “modest” effort. While that may be true when compared to the lifestyles of the rich and famous, we prefer Randy’s cozy, complete theater experience.
When we say “complete,” it’s because Randy’s entire basement level is dedicated to making the perfect movie night. Walk into this basement, and you’ll be treated to a pre-show experience—as well as a complimentary box of Junior Mints. “We felt strongly that the movie experience was only part of what we wanted, so we also built a full movie theater lobby, snack bar, and arcade,” says Randy. “The lobby lets me indulge in the fun side with movie posters, a lighted marquee, movie props and memorabilia, along with the claw and pinball machines. The theater itself is almost a temple to movies—classy and restrained, with no sign of technology or distraction.”
It wasn’t all fun, games and claw machines, though. A lot of planning (as well as M&Ms) went into the installation of the lobby, as well as the theater room. Between planning and construction, the entire project took about a year.
However, Randy wasn’t alone in his efforts. He called upon a few local contractors for the bulk of the room’s construction. When it came to choosing equipment, Randy turned to an AVS favorite, designer Dennis Erskine. “We found Dennis through the AVS Forum,” Randy says. “I was impressed with his willingness to share his experience and knowledge—and by the others on the forum that had built successful theaters with him.” Still, Randy and his wife Diane were very involved in the entire project, down to fabric installation, design and decoration.
Part of that long process was spent figuring out the space. Despite the decent size of the basement, the room’s load-bearing walls were not ideally placed. “I really struggled with every inch—including to the half inch on how much space to have behind the bar,” Randy says. “There’s very little space, no room for error, and I was very concerned during construction that we’d screw up in some fundamental way.” Of course, everything worked out in the end, but did add to the some of the construction costs.
Thankfully, there weren’t as many concerns about the technology. Dennis helped Randy achieve audio greatness. “When people visit for the first time, they start talking about how the theater looks, then how comfortable the chairs are, then how big the screen is and how amazing the picture looks. But after the movie, all they can talk about is how is sounded,” Randy says. “Most people have no idea how important sound is to the movie experience.”
That was a huge concern, even in the very beginning. “I became convinced that the audio environment was the key to a successful home theater,” Randy says. That was also the deciding factor when it came to seeking out Dennis for advice. “Because of the design, it was unnecessary to do trial-and-error.”
That design also allowed Randy to tuck the equipment into a storage closet, which is off the theater’s entryway. This provides easy access to the equipment, without any distractions.
Speaking of distractions: In between viewings, Randy also spends a little time in the part of the basement known as the Cinema Murray Fitness Center. Unlike the theater, it took a long time to garner interest in that area. “After years of using it to hang laundry to dry,” he says, “it’s been getting daily use.”
Want to get a better look at Randy’s theater? Check out the photos in our slideshow.
Location: Westerville, Ohio
Year Completed: 2003
Room Size: 13.5 x 21 feet
Length of Project: 8 months
Total Cost: $80,000
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.