Basement Goes from Playroom to Palatial Home Theater

Transformation involves altering windows and walls, adding starfield ceiling and high-performance gear.

Photos: Lance Anderson

When the kids grow up, it’s time to put the toys away and do something more mature with a playroom. The natural inclination for a family of movie lovers: Transform it into a dedicated home theater that all ages can appreciate. That’s exactly what the owners of this remarkable space accomplished recently, with the help of the custom electronics (CE) professionals at Admit One Cinema, Edina, Minn.

The conversion of the large lower level would require some alterations of the existing structure, but since it measured approximately 17 feet wide by 34 feet long, there was plenty of room to work with. Admit One Cinema started by shortening the length to 24 feet by constructing a new wall at the front of the room. The new proportions would work better design- and performance-wise, says company president Lance Anderson. It would offer a surface in which to recess the front three JBL speakers and subwoofers, plus section off a portion for a dance studio.

Another big part of the renovation was framing in three existing windows on a side wall. Blocking out all light was crucial in this theater because it was being designed expressly for watching movies in a dark environment.

The spaciousness of the spot also enabled the CE pros to integrate lots of speakers, a huge screen and a “star-gazing window” on the ceiling. A 12-foot-wide, curved CinemaScope screen from Stewart Filmscreen had no problem fitting in, as did the seven speakers and four subwoofers of the JBL Synthesis surround-sound system.

System Design & Installation

Admit One Cinema, Edina, Minn.

Interior Design

Home Design by Annie, Minneapolis, Minn.


Designed & Made, Minneapolis, Minn.

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Ordinarily, a ceiling-suspended video projector can eat up headroom in a basement theater; that wasn’t the case in this room, thanks to its higher-than-normal ceiling. Admit One Cinema built a hushbox around the Runco LS10i 1080p projector to prevent sound from the fan and exhaust from interfering with the movie audio. The hot air from the projector is vented to an existing mechanical room, which also provides access to the back of a well-stocked equipment rack.

The most visually impressive application of technology, though, is a starfield of LED lighting on the ceiling. Blue LED lighting borders the oval, observatory-like galaxy, the illusion that the ceiling is higher than it actually is.

The finished result is a definite departure from the playroom that used to occupy the area, and although the entertainment may be a lot more grown up, Admit One Cinema made sure to add fun toys like a specially programmed T2-C+ handheld touchscreen remote control from RTI that invites the owners to turn groups of lights off an on for effect, alter the shape of the screen and choose from a big library of video content.

Here’s an in-depth look at this home theater transformation, with commentary from Admit One Cinema custom electronics pro Lance Anderson and Home Design By Annie interior designer Annie Tropple:

Putting Bad Spots to Good Use

Basements can be a bear to work with when building a home theater. There’s the duct work on the ceiling to work around, drains on the floor to contend with, pillars to work into the layout, and the list goes on. These unaccommodating elements can actually work to your advantage, though, if you think about them creatively. For example, pillars can add visual punch when boxed in and lined with LED lights. If there are structural issues with the floor, why not build a platform over them to create stadium-style seating? Just be sure to add a trap door so you can reach the important stuff below. As for the HVAC ducts? By framing them in, they can become an architectural element of your home theater.

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