DIYer Takes Classic Theater Across Country

Rob McIntosh Home Theater

Rob McIntosh paid homage to the past with his basement’s 1920s-themed theater. 

Australian Rob McIntosh took his love for old-time A/V around the world, creating home theaters on two coasts.

Jul. 16, 2009 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Rob McIntosh loves old-school home theater. He loves it so much that he created his own — not once, but twice.

About four years ago, Rob lived in Seattle with his wife, Stefanie. That first home theater included an InFocus projector, a 110-inch Da-Lite screen and a few pieces to give the room the classic feel of the theaters Rob remembered from his youth.

Rob loved going to the movies as a kid. Who didn’t? The big difference here is that his Sydney neighborhood gave him a slightly different experience than the typical drive-in and/or double feature.

“There was a movie theater where I lived that was sort of that grandiose old architecture 1900’s type,” he says. “At the beginning of the movie, the guy would come out of the stage floor and play the organ before the movie and you had all of these architectural details. I was so enthralled by it, that it’s always stuck with me.”

It not only stuck, it moved in with him. Of course, he’s not housing any organ men in his 5,000-square-foot home, but he has brought a lot of the design elements from those theaters. He incorporated some of the elements into his first home theater.

Home Theater Goes Across Country

When Rob’s job moved him across the country, the theater bug came with him. Sadly, he had to leave the projector, screen and chairs behind for the new homeowners. Four speakers, a subwoofer and his remote made the trip, though, and created a pretty solid foundation for his new project.

The new theater took Rob and Stefanie about a year to complete. Even Stefanie was heavily involved, choosing some of the decor and helping to paint. “I think it was easier to convince her because she did the first one,” Rob says. “She got excited and said, ‘Oh I’d love to do another one. That was fun.’ “

Stefanie’s enthusiasm could be one of the reasons Rob named the theater after her — or at least her nickname — BubbyMac. He thought it was cute and different and, of course, loved pleasing the missus. “It definitely helps … if she looks at it and says, ‘$35,000, oh my God.’ Then I can say, ‘It’s named after you, honey.’”

They did ask for a tiny bit of outside help to wire the lighting and calibrate the projector and screen. For the latter, Rob tapped local installation company Evolution Home Theater, who had sold him both units.

“It was just too hard for me to get into the calibration and the correct throw distances,” he says. “After spending all that time on the AVS Forums, that was the one thing I knew that could make a big difference in the quality of picture. So, I didn’t even want to touch it.”

Tweaking Columns, Setup

There were plenty of other items that needed Rob’s attention anyway. For instance, the columns from his previous theater needed a bit of tweaking.

“Oh! That was a challenge,” he says. Although they conveyed the look that Rob was going for, they didn’t have the height to be placed in the new room. Instead of building new columns from scratch, Rob says they “sort of faux finished the two top and bottom parts of the column.”

The original columns were handmade out of plaster-type landscaping material. To add the extra height, he created boxes out of plywood, 2x4s, Sheetrock and a bit of insulation. Then he added the boxes to the top and bottom of the original columns, until they achieved the correct height from the pony wall all the way up to the ceiling. All of the detail was then hand-painted. “People come in and think it’s all one column,” Rob says. “It’s actually two boxes with the column attached in the middle.”

Rob also boosted the setup to 7.1. Even though the equipment had a special place in his heart, he wanted an equally special place in his basement. “I wanted it to sort of blend in,” he said. However, in the last theater, having the equipment in the room made things a bit hot. Instead of installing fans and other noisy equipment in the room, he took everything out into what used to be the corridor. Now that area is closed off with Sheetrock, which Rob cut holes into to show off the various components.

Behind the wall is a homemade rack, which has a pullout drawer for the family’s gaming needs, that slides all of the A/V into the wall nicely. “I just thought visually, when you come down the hallway, you’ve got this continuation of the same color walls and then the equipment is just that flush; it doesn’t jet out in any way, shape or form,” he says.

Antiques Abound

The columns and equipment are just one of the room’s many little touches. To capture the time period, Rob picked up a lot of showpieces from various antique stores. Looking around the room you’d think he was an avid book collector.

“I just went to an antique store and said that I wanted to buy $50 in books, but told them that I wanted to spend no more than $1 a book,” Rob says. From there, they picked out books with interesting spines. “It was just more that I wanted to keep the architectural elements reasonably in keeping with the room, so I looked for a lot of spines that would give that sort of design feel.

“I haven’t read any of them,” he admits. “Who has time to read books when you’ve got a home theater?”

For a blast from the past and a peek at Rob’s theater, check out our slideshow.

Quick Hits
Location: Atlanta, GA
Year Completed: 2009
Room Size: 19 x 18 feet
Length of Project: 12 months
Total Cost: $35,000

Berkline Home Theater Chairs (8)
Denon AVR-5803CI Receiver
Denon DVD-3800BDCI Blu-ray Player
HP Media Center Extenders (2)
HP Pavilion PC
Marantz VP-15S1 DLP Projector
Microsoft Xbox 360
Panamax M5100-EX Power Conditioner
Paradigm CC-290 Center Speaker
Paradigm Reference Monitor 7 Front Speakers (2)
Paradigm Studio ADP-390 Speakers (2)
Paradigm Studio ADP-590 Speakers (2)
Philips Pronto Pro TSU7000 Touchscreen Remote
Polk Audio DSW Pro500 Subwoofer
Polk Audio PSW125 Subwoofer
Sony PlayStation 3
Stewart Filmscreen Firehawk G3 120-inch Screen

Return to full story: