August 24, 2009
by Lisa Montgomery
The owners of this theater were willing to sacrifice valuable storage space to transform a spare room into a small but mighty home theater. “The room was really too small to function as much of anything, other than a place to put workout gear” says Chris Green, general manager at Hi-Tech Home in Clovis, Calif.
Measuring less than 200 square feet, the room didn’t quite have the chops to accommodate the enormous screen and surround-sound system the owners had in mind. So before a single piece of equipment could be installed, contractors from Alta Custom Homes (also in Clovis), enlarged the room by several feet by removing an existing wall, tearing down a built-in bookshelf and turning two closets in the hallway into square-footage for the theater.
The closet conversions also gave Hi-Tech Home a place to fish the network wiring that would connect the theater’s Sony 400-disc changer to TVs in the master bedroom and family room.
“This would give the owners a huge bang for the buck,” says Green. “At the time of the installation (the project was finished in January 2009), the Sony changer was about 1/8th the cost of a hard-drive (multiroom) system. The only drawback is that everyone has to watch what’s playing in the theater, unlike a hard-drive system that allows everyone to watch whatever they want.”
That was another concession the owners made—this time, to conserve cash. The entire project came in at less than $50,000, including the build-out, cabinet work, new carpeting, painting, lighting, and of course, the labor and equipment. Not bad, considering the room would boast a 110-inch Da-Lite screen, a Panasonic 1080p projector, Denon 7.1 surround-sound receiver and a Control4 control system, in addition to the Sony megachanger and seven Berkline chairs.
This equipment provides a fantastic movie experience for the family, although Green admits that a 92-inch screen might have been a better fit for the still smallish 12-by-16-foot area.
“When you’re sitting in the front row, the 110-inch image is a bit overwhelming,” he says.
Still, the owners love the effect, especially when playing video games. The on-screen navigation menu of the Control4 system makes it easy for them to transition from a movie to a video game. One press of a button—choosing the Wii, Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 icon that’s displayed on the 110-inch screen—switches all the necessary inputs and adjusts the lighting levels.
All the gaming consoles, as well as the A/V equipment and front speakers, are hidden inside a cabinet custom-built for the room—another space-saving strategy.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.