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Theaters now in-home entertainment trend

Cinematic options can range from large TVs to projectors that drop down from a ceiling recess.
Mountain Home Entertainment | Special to the Daily |

Home theater rooms had a large audience for a while, but that was before the economy crashed and burned.

“When the recession hit about five years ago, people started making their houses a little more compact, and they started having more multi-use spaces; less full-on dedicated spaces for one purpose,” said Karen Wray, vice president and interior designer at Mountain Log Homes and Interiors in Frisco.

Larger homes in Summit County, such as those over 6,000-square-feet, cost extra after a certain size, adding cost per square foot according to sustainable building codes, sprinkler codes and impact fees for affordable housing.



It was in the late ‘90s and in the early 2000s that in-home theater systems became very popular, said Suzanne Allen Sabo, president of Allen-Guerra Architecture, a full-service architecture firm out of Breckenridge. She says they are still in demand on some occasions, particularly in very large homes.

“They take up quite a but of square footage,” said Allen Sabo. “Most people who want a mid-sized or smaller home opt for a rec room that combines the features of a theater and a family room.”



When the economy took a downturn, many people decided to go for 4,500 square-foot homes instead of adding that extra 2,000 square feet for spaces like in-home theaters. For those who do want them, however, home theaters can be built simply or very extravagantly, depending on individual homeowner interests.

Wray said her clients, all log home lovers, are in general a little less techie, for instance.

“If you have the space, it’s great, but when a luxury home costs $300 per square foot to build, my clients would rather put the money into outdoor fireplaces, large decks or a bigger kitchen,” she explained.



Then there are gamers, or people with a large interest in playing interactive video games — an example of those who desire designated home theaters.

“Gaming can become a whole other world that can just blow your mind,” said Scott Thomas, owner of Mountain Home Entertainment based in Frisco.

He says individual consoles, or seats with controllers, can cost six figures per person, if you desire.

“You can have a basic gaming theater, where every seat has a console, or you can spend $100,000 per seat to have features like a vibrating chair to simulate the experience,” said Thomas. “It’s just mind-boggling what can be done.”

Theater Features

Whether a room is a designated home theater or more of a multi-use space with pool tables and a wet bar, there are modern touches that maximize your media.

Projectors can be hidden in a recess in the ceiling of a space, so they can drop down with the click of a button on a remote. Allen Sabo says her firm has also been designing layouts so that a screen can be hidden into a ceiling space.

“We recently used an extremely large TV instead of a projector and screen in a theater,” she added. “Often, too, our clients will want to utilize the front of their theater as a stage for live music performances or grandchildren’s live plays.”

For designated in-home theaters, certain materials are used for walls, floors and ceilings to optimize acoustics, and acoustical and sound engineers can be hired to provide their input for the design of these rooms

“The sound in a theater room is definitely superior to the sound in a room that is not designed as a theater,” Allen Sabo said. “In a dedicated theater room, we often use ratios for the ideal screen size and distance from the screen. Speaker and sound equipment locations are engineered for the space.”

The drawbacks of building a separate home theater, Allen Sabo said, are the costs of the room itself and the costs associated with the equipment that is needed in a theater room. There also may be additional costs in air handling, as a theater room needs air exchange and often needs air conditioning.

It doesn’t always have to be super elaborate. Wray said she and Thomas recently worked on a small and simple home theater — a mini media room, made specifically to entertain the client’s grandchildren.

The clients had an unfinished stage room was that only about 12 feet by 15 feet in size, and Wray made it fun with old movie theater chairs from the original Breckenridge theater, as well as reclining, comfortable chairs.

The biggest theater Thomas has done, in comparison, cost $200,000, included three tiers of seating with seven chairs per row, and the entire theater was acoustically treated.

Multi-Use Systems

While in-home theaters are still being built, they are not as common as they once were.

“I think people are moving away from the dedicated movie theater,” Wray said. “A multi-use media room can still provide a cool picture and sound, but when you’re not using it as a movie theater, you can still use it for ping pong, shuffleboard and pool.”

In media room, there is often a big television, or a projector and screen, about 65 or 75 inches in size, table games and a wet bar.

Brands such as Crestron and Control4 home automation systems are ways to integrate more than just audio and visual effects into a media room, and into an entire home.

Thomas is a Crestron dealer, and says that these days, you can automate anything you can imagine.

“I just finished a project with a builder, and it wasn’t a super high-end system — about $120,000 — and they had automated lights, shades, alarm system, thermostats, deck heaters and more on it,” he said. “All the TVs and the music in the house were automated — every aspect of that house was automated.”

With programs like Crestron, homeowners and guests can use a smartphone or tablet to control all the different electronic functions in a home.

In general, multi-use media rooms have more of an integrated feel when it comes to both a social setting and electronic actions, with sectional couches instead of individual seats, and systems like Crestron that make it easy for everything to be control with a touch of a button.

There will always be something special about an in-home theater, however, which offers that sensory driven, cinematic euphoria that you won’t even need to leave the house to experience.


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