May 10, 2011
by EH Staff
Seating is never an issue for the owners of this Cayman Island home theater. The built-from-scratch structure holds 19 custom-designed theater seats and barstools in the main seating area and a dozen more in an elegantly styled balcony behind the back row of chairs. Suggested by the homeowners, the balcony was a first for many of the contractors who designed, configured, installed and programmed this one-of-a-kind home cinema. “I’ve been in the [home electronics] industry for more than 15 years, and up until now I’ve never seen one with a real balcony,” says Tony Golden of Alpharetta, Ga.–based Mobile Technology, a firm hired to program the Crestron system that runs all of the equipment inside the theater and in the main house.
The homeowners had been living in their 30,000-square-foot contemporary beach house for four years, when they decided to add a home theater. Unlike many A/V enthusiasts who convert an existing rec room, den or guest bedroom into a media space, these owners opted to build a freestanding structure for their personal cinema—and they went all out. The auditorium measures 34 by 25 feet with 22-foot-high ceilings. “As soon as you walk into the room, you’re overwhelmed by how huge it is,” says Jeffrey Smith, president and CEO of First Impressions Theme Theatres in Miami. His company was given the task of creating the interior space, including all the furnishings, snack bar, lobby area, bathroom, stage, fiber optic ceiling and other Old World-style accoutrements.
No ordinary audio/video system would do this space justice. A team of experts specified some of the finest products on the planet, including a $250,000 4K (4096-by-2400-pixel) projector from Meridian, a 210-inch-wide screen from Stewart Filmscreen and an all-digital Meridian surround-sound system featuring 10 speakers and seven subwoofers, all of which were carefully installed behind the acoustically treated walls and ceiling. These over-the-top equipment choices were dictated largely by the enormous scale of the room. Any screen smaller than 210 inches, for example, would have struggled to provide the visual pop the owners wanted.
After settling on the superwide screen, which also happens to be curved to better showcase CinemaScope formatted movies, the design and installation team paired it with a projector rated with a high light output and image resolution. According to video experts, the bigger a screen is, the more likely it is that viewers will notice the pixels in an image. A 4K projector [like the Meridian 810] has a resolution that’s much higher than other types of projectors, which allows it to create images where the pixels are smaller and less noticeable.
The theater’s audio system, driven by an all-digital Meridian processor and beefy Genelec and Triad speakers, holds its own, too, having been carefully calibrated for optimal performance in basically what was constructed as a concrete box. Comprised of 10-inch concrete walls, a steel reinforced floor and 3-inch-thick doors, the theater was constructed to withstand the force of a Category 5 hurricane, according to local integrator Tony Coe of The Audiophile Group.
Concrete also does a good job of preventing sound—all 8,785 watts of it—from escaping the space, but a variety of insulation materials and acoustical treatments had to be added to break up the heavy bass so the audio would sound more natural and smooth—no matter what the family chooses to watch or listen to. From the start, the theater was designed as a multifunctional entertainment space where the family—many of whom are accomplished singers—can perform for family and friends. When the mood strikes, they can pull out their karaoke system or fold out a wooden dance floor on the stage. “It’s a place where they host kids’ birthday parties, gatherings for sporting events and sing-a-longs,” says Smith. A touch of a button on one of the theater’s three Crestron touchpanels preps the lights, audio, video and motorized curtains for whatever the family has planned. EH