May 18, 2011
by Krissy Rushing
Theaters like the ones on these pages are often found in multimillion-dollar homes. So one would never guess that above the garage in this modest home in White Bear Lake, Minn., sits a world-class theater. Here, authentic-looking accouterments inspired by the movie Tomb Raider commingle with precision audio/video to transport guests to the catacombs of ancient Egypt, or wherever the plot of the movie takes them.
“It’s rare that you meet a client like this—an enthusiast who is so excited about the project that they become engrossed in the design of the theater,” says Lance Anderson, president of Admit One. “Most of the larger projects we do are in homes where the owners consider the theater to be just another room in the house. In this case, however, the Paul and Rachel actually added a room to the house for a no-comprise home cinema.” As such, owners knew exactly what they wanted and were prepared to help execute their vision for a realistic themed theater.
The first challenge that Admit One faced was ensuring that audio would not escape the room. “The house is in a neighborhood where the homes are in close proximity to one another. They didn’t want sound to leak out into the neighborhood or, more importantly, outside noise to disrupt the experience inside,” says Anderson. To help control sound outflow, the room was built using staggered-stud construction, plenty of insulation, and two layers of sheetrock.
Soundproofing didn’t present nearly as big a hurdle as the room acoustics, though. The theater’s faux stonework, designed to look 4,000 years old, served as a major thematic element, but the hard, reflective surface made the audio sound harsh. Admit One tackled the unruly acoustics by adding absorptive materials between the columns. The company also specified a modified a JBL Synthesis system that included speakers from Synthesis One, and upgraded to a pair of 18-inch subwoofers and a processor from the Synthesis Two package. “Part of the reason we used this system is that JBL’s room EQ is so spectacular. It allowed us to account for the room’s anomalies and calibrate it to SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) standards,” says Anderson.
A 13-foot 2.35:1 masking Stewart Filmscreen paired with a Runco 3-chip VX-22 projector with anamorphic lens provide a video experience that was just as spectacular as the audio, with the projector artfully hidden behind stonework. To downplay the appearance of modern technology, Paul and Rachel strategically placed ominous gargoyles around the room, such as the one perched atop the projector box.
Admit One and its enthusiastic clients paid attention to every detail, from the stone floor and stairs in the entryway that reinforce the primitive mood, to the theater seats. In fact, Admit One flew Paul and Rachel to Texas to see chairs from United Leather, where they custom-designed the Monticeto seats to protect the integrity of the “ancient” theater. Details like the weathered leather and rustic furniture tacks were chosen to contribute to the vibe of a truly primordial space.
Admit One also deliberately kept lighting to a minimum, cognizant of the fact that electricity didn’t exist thousands of years ago. The cavernous space is therefore very dimly lit, much like the mausoleums Lara Croft scours in the film. Even the Middle Atlantic equipment rack is entrenched between two stone pillars, minimizing the appearance of technology that threatens to shatter suspension of disbelief.
While the Tomb Raider-themed theater took three years from construction to completion, the homeowners are ecstatic about the results. “Throughout the process the owners and our team stayed focused knowing that in the end it would all be worth the extra time and effort,” says Anderson. In fact, the owners were so dedicated to the vision that they made a pact not to watch a single movie in the theater until it was totally complete.
Now, that’s dedication. We can only guess what the first movie Paul and Rachel watched might have been.
The Stone’s Story
Rather than hire a cabinetmaker or professional interior designer, Admit One and the homeowners took on the design of the detailed faux stonework themselves. “We couldn’t find anyone who could envision how to materialize these simulated pillars and rock,” says Lance Anderson, president of Admit One. EH