Not everyone has room for a big screen inside the house. However, Ken Allwine refused to give up the dream. Instead, he put that big screen in the only place on his property that it would fit: The driveway.
“This was the next best thing,” he says. “I thought it would be a great idea since I haven’t been to a real drive-in in years.”
Ken’s screen is adjacent to the garage doors. Right behind the screen is a 14-foot concrete wall, which made this the perfect spot for placement. Despite some trial and error with mounting and speaker setup, the 8-by-12-screen size was a no-brainer.
Aside from the projector and screen, all of Ken’s equipment lives in a homemade cabinet between the two garage doors—on the inside, away from the elements. This cuts down on setup time and heavy lifting. “Another reason it is a permanent installation is there is a speaker selector in the cabinet as well, which allows me to channel music to the garage, workshop and back patio,” he says.
While the equipment in the garage may be a permanent fixture, the screen and speakers get packed up and put away in between showings. “Also, the Northeastern climate isn’t the best for winter movie watching,” Ken says.
During those nicer months, Ken’s area fits about 30 to 40 people comfortably. Using the driveway also shields his guests from the sounds and smells of the street. “It almost has a small amphitheater feel to it, being there are three walls that surround the screen,” he says. To help with that grand experience: Ken actually made all of his speakers.
“I decided to build the speakers because I am a true DIYer,” he says. Of course, it also helped to save on some of the costs. Ken says that his $120 center-channel speaker sounds just as good as a store-bought $1,000 unit. “I get a great deal of satisfaction out of building things myself.” Also, it wasn’t all that difficult. Using designs he found on Parts Express for the speakers and Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeakers for the center channel, Ken built each of the units in his basement woodshop over just a few nights. He says the projects were fairly easy, except for the center, which had a lot of complex cuts and angles.
Of course, a guy that builds his own speakers also loves to tweak. In fact, the center channel is on its third incarnation. A large DJ-style speaker and even his home’s own center channel didn’t seem to cut it, which helped push him into the homemade route. The end result: A 48-inch custom curved short-line array with nine 4-inch drivers and 18 tweeters. Also, instead of the receiver’s output, he uses the DVD decoded output of a Berhinger Ultralink Pro mixer/splitter into a Crown XLS 202 amplifier. “We now have the best solution for our center channel dilemma,” Ken says.
Although the speakers may sound professional, it’s not just the cabinets that have the homemade touch. Ken uses storage organizers that his wife Eileen bought to reorganize the family’s basement storage as—what else?—speaker stands. Of course, it’s not the prettiest solution, but it gets the job done during those outdoor movie months. As far as the basement is concerned though, entertainment trumps organization, and to this day, the basement is still in slight disarray. It doesn’t matter, though. There’s plenty of room to park on the driveway.
Location: Hershey, PA
Year Completed: 2008
Room Size: 20 x 40 feet
Length of Project: 4 months
Total Cost: $1,300
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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.