July 23, 2010
| by Steven Castle
Remember drive-in theaters? There was something special about parking your car and watching a mediocre movie on a giant, washed-out screen. Then there were those clunky speakers that hooked over your window. And the atrocious food. Yet all could be forgiven if you were canoodling with a date.
Today we have home theaters. But even a great home theater can’t match the atmosphere and experience of the drive-in. Or can it?
The owners of this decked-out 4,800-square-foot home didn’t want any old home theater. They grew nostalgic and decided to theme their theater around the drive-in cinema where they once met. (Click here to view additional photos.)
“The homeowners really drove this one (no pun intended),” says Glenn Montjoy of electronic installation company Colorado Media Systems in Colorado Springs, Colo. “One of their parents actually owned a drive-in theater, and the clients were engaged at a drive-in. The concept excited everyone involved, and they got behind it in a real way.”
The place even looks like a good-ol’ drive-in, with wall murals depicting drive-in scenes, steel light fixtures on poles—and even those crappy drive-in speakers.
Don’t worry. The old drive-in speakers don’t provide the main surround sound. That might be a horror show. But they do play an important role the creation of the drive-in ambiance. When the room system is activated via a touchpad at the entry, the old speakers play 1960s music from a DirecTV music channel. The music is routed through a second zone on the home theater’s Marantz SR6004 audio/video receiver. “When another video source is selected through the Control4 interface, the drive-in speakers are turned off and the main 7.1-channel speaker system takes over,” says Montjoy. And if the family really, truly wants that authentic drive-in sound, they can activate the drive-in speakers and mute the main system.
That’s not even as bad as it sounds. The homeowners managed to find a set of the drive-in speakers, and Colorado Media Systems replaced the old paper-cone drivers in those units with Infinity car stereo speakers, which were a perfect fit, says Montjoy.
The real 7.1-channel system consists of NHT Four tower speakers and a 12-inch NHT subwoofer located behind an acoustically transparent front wall and screen. Four NHT IW4 in-wall speakers provide the side and back surround sound, and are hidden behind fabric walls that also contain acoustic absorption and reflection panels. Try that at a drive-in!
But the star of this drive-in, just as at a real one, is the really big screen. The homeowners wanted to have a truly cinematic experience, so the obvious choice was to go with a CinemaScope-wide 2.35:1 screen, the superwide aspect ratio in which many blockbuster movies are filmed. Of course, other aspect ratios like the more popular 1.85:1 and HDTV’s 16:9 (1.78:1) are possible as well. “We chose to use a [Vutec] Vision X screen because of the availability of the drop-down masking panels [to change the aspect ratios] and the acoustically transparent screen material,” says Montjoy.
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates