DIY Home Theaters
Gamer Scores High with Home Theater Trio
Dino Theo is a pinball wizard, but there has to be a twist -- his home theater and bar area.
Dino Theo Arcade
Dino Theo’s basement level includes a home theater, a bar, and a full-fledged arcade/lobby area.
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December 02, 2008 by Rachel Cericola

Dino Theo is a little greedy. See, he didn’t just want a nice home theater and a bar. He wanted both of those—to go along with his killer game room.

When Dino designed his layout, he took a page from the Cineplex handbook, or at least the blueprints. Like many actual theaters, the game room serves as a lobby. However, he’s blown more than a few quarters. Aside from the actual room, those machines start around $600 each, with the high score reaching $7,000 for his “Medieval Madness” unit.

Currently, the room has a total of five pinball machines, as well as a MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator), which can play an array of classic titles on a regular PC, which is mounted inside an arcade cabinet. Also, aside from the pinball, there are a few slot machines to keep that gambling monkey on your back happy and entertained.

Dino originally added the machines to give the room a more authentic theater lobby feel. “I bought a pinball machine as ‘decoration’,” he says. “After that I was hooked into the hobby.”

Hooked indeed. Like most hobbies, this one also had its learning curve. Dino says there were plenty of challenges, mainly due to where the builder had run electrical wiring. “Since that room was unfinished and was next to a finished room, they didn’t run some of the electrical wires (Romex) inside the studs,” he says. “They were on the backside of the studs, which meant they were facing where the game room was to go.” He also added drywall around some of the pipes and HVAC runs. Not as easy as it sounds, though: “It was me and my wife holding up the drywall while I hurriedly tried to get it screwed in.”

There was also an issue with heat. There’s a reason why your hand was so sweaty during your arcade years: pinball machines put out some serious heat. “It is no wonder since they have over 100 bulbs each,” Dino says. To combat the heat problem, Dino converted all of the pinball machines to use LED lighting. “I measured one machine before and after the LED conversion. Before, it was pulling about 2.15 amps. After the conversion, it was at 0.67 amps.” He also added a return air duct to the game room.

Still, all of the hard work, heat and drywall debris has paid off. Dino cites “Medieval Madness” as “the Holy Grail of pinball machines,” although, he’s currently more into his console systems at the moment—thanks to the birth of his daughter. “With the Xbox 360 and PS3, I can sit on the couch, watch her, and pause every so often to play with my daughter,” he says. “Once she gets a little older and more independent I will gravitate back towards pinball.”

After all, he has spent a lot of time achieving that pinball wizard status. Aside from offering pinball audio advice on his website, take his “Monster Bash” unit. The title is a sought-after machine, but this one has its own completely unique spin. “I stripped it completely bare,” Dino says. “I re-decaled the cabinet, which took four days between sanding, filling and decalling. I found a clear-coated/restored playfield done by Bill Davis. I replaced nearly every single part on the playfield. This project took me about a month and I dedicated lots of time to it.”

In case you can’t wait for the feature presentation, Dino has a 27-inch LCD mounted to the game room’s wall, as well as powered 10-inch subwoofers for each of the five pinball machines. Oh, and the MAME cabinet doesn’t just crank out the classics, that many of us grew up with. It has an amp and subwoofer of its own, which allows it to be used as a stand-alone jukebox. Dino has ripped his CD collection to a music server in the basement. Both his PC and MAME machine are on the home network, which means easy access to the music. He also uses freeware, called Arcade Jukebox.

Once your thumbs are sore and you’ve run out of quarters, visitors can retire to the home theater, which features a Panasonic PT-AE900 projector and a 96-by-54-inch Draper M1300 screen. There are also a slew of speakers, as well as a Blu-ray player and plenty of other equipment, which lives in a closet next to the theater room.  Despite having a fully stocked theater (and a bar on the same basement level), he still tweaks. Dino recently upgraded his receiver to Pioneer’s Elite VSX-94TXH, and is in the planning stages of upgrading his projector.

Speaking of which, Dino’s projects are not restricted to the theater room. He recently revved up an old racing cabinet, by adding a dedicated Xbox 360 setup. It’s not just for playing, but a whole gaming experience, with a 27-inch Viewsonic LCD, an array of speakers and subwoofer, which includes a Rockford Fosgate PWR-68 subwoofer in the seat and an Aura bass shaker pro. No quarters are needed, but we wouldn’t mind taking this thing once around the U.S. and back.


Quick Hits
Location: Maryland
Year Completed: 2003 (game room), 2004 (theater)
Theater Room Size: 21 x 14 feet
Game Room Size: 12 x 17 feet
Length of Project: 2 months each
Total Cost: $12,000 (theater equipment only), $25,000 (game room equipment)

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Rachel Cericola - Contributing Writer
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.

Equipment List

Draper 96x54 M1300 Screen
Microsoft Xbox 360
Mirage BPS400 Subwoofers (2)
Niles Audio MSU140 Infrared Control System
Panasonic PT-AE900 Projector
Pioneer Elite VSX-94TXH Receiver
Rocket RCSC200 Center Speaker
Rocket RS250 Rear Speakers
Rocket RS750 Front Speakers
Rocket RSS300 Side Speakers
Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray Player
Sony PlayStation 3
Toshiba HD-A1 HDDVD Player


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