Evan Chase has seen more than 100 movies this year. And he’s never had to leave his house.
"A lot of my buddies like to play golf, but I like to watch movies," said the retired Mesa engineer.
So with his children grown and out of the house, he decided to convert one of the rooms into a home theater. And with a $2,500 Epson liquid crystal display projector providing crisp images on a 5-foot screen, the 59-year-old said he’s as happy as a child on Christmas morning.
"The only time it’s a problem is when I’ve got the volume up too loud and my wife is on the phone," Chase said. "But other than that, I love it."
When Chase and his wife married in 1965, their home entertainment consisted of a radio, a record player and a small blackand-white TV with an antenna. But today, anyone who can afford the investment of time and money can have a home theater that rivals the local cinema experience. The thought of connecting all the necessary wires and cables may send you into a panic, but with a little planning and patience, you can be watching your favorite film in the comfort of your own home without disrupting the entire household.
"The best thing to do if you want a dedicated home theater is to work with the builder when the home is being built so it is prewired for surround sound and has the proper acoustics," said John Cioe of Custom Home Technology in Scottsdale, which specializes in electrical design for home automation, media rooms and home theaters. "The beauty of prewiring a room during construction is that you can add the home theater components anytime. Plus, it becomes much easier to upgrade when the technology improves, which it is doing rapidly."
If you want to add a theater to your current home, the most important thing is to select the best room for your new theater, said Marc Rochkind, author of "Home Theater Explained." Consider the room’s size and dimensions, its proximity to sleeping rooms, the size of the screen you want and the architectural constraints of the space.
"Your room should be big enough so that the distance from the viewer’s eyes to the screen is about two times the screen size," Rochkind said. "For example, if you have a 65-inch screen, you should be sitting about 10 feet from the screen."
If you want seating for more than four people, a frontprojection system like the one Chase has is best, Rochkind said. The projector can be hung from the ceiling and two or more rows of seats can be placed so the back rows are elevated, stadium style.
"It’s also best to pick a room that has a single door because it’s more soundproof," Cioe said. "And you want a room that allows you to get natural light when you’re going through your movie catalog. The room also must give you the ability to control the lighting with blackout drapes that are operated by a remote."
While a light leak in the room will put a glare on the screen, sound leaking from the home theater room will put a glare on the faces of family members who are trying to do homework or read a book.
"To have a soundproof home theater room, we stagger the studs on the walls so we can put in a thicker layer in insulation," Cioe said. "Sound travels through wood, but Owens-Corning Quiet Zone insulation is designed specifically for home theaters. The sound travels through the wood and hits the insulation and never goes past it. The sound vibrations stay in the room, and the movie watcher gets to hear all of it."
If a dedicated home theater is planned from the start of construction, there should be very little added cost for insulation and wiring. But it’s a different story if you decide to add it to your home.
"If you want to add a home theater later, you’d need to rip out the drywall and put in new framing to properly wire and insulate the room," Cioe said. "That will cost between $15,000 and $30,000, depending on the size of the room. That’s why home theaters are often not done properly after the fact because it’s cost-prohibitive."
For people like Chase, being able to kick back with his shoes off and get the theater experience at home is worth the price of admission.
"If we ever decided to move, we probably would build a new home and have an entertainment room with all the bells and whistles," said Chase, who estimates he has invested about $10,000 in his home theater. "It would be nice to be able to crank up the sound when I’m watching ‘Pearl Harbor’ and not bother my wife. But I can still always go to the movie theater if I want that."
John Cioe of Custom Home Technology in Scottsdale, which specializes in providing electrical design for home automation, media rooms and home theaters, says your home theater’s sight and sound can be just as good as the local cineplex’s if you're willing to spend enough money.
1 Cost: $30,545
50" widescreen plasma monitor 5.1 SurroundSound 3 front speakers 2 rear channel speakers 1 in-wall subwoofer High-quality progressive scan DVD player High-definition satellite receiver SurroundSound receiver Color programmable learning remote control Custom programming for remote
2 Cost: $107,535
DLP projector Native rate video processor with DVD player THX SurroundSound 3 front speakers 2 cinema speakers Channel amplifier Processor 108" diagonal theater screen Solar shading motorized theater curtain Integrated room control 12" Madero panel, audio, video switcher, central processor and programming
3 Cost: $250,000- $2,000,000
$60,000 - $90,000 for projection systems with video processors $30,000 - $50,000 for amplifiers for the SurroundSound $45,000 for each speaker in the room $1,000,000+ budget for a custom theater design $100,000 to $250,000 — for custom lighting packages from fiber optics of the galaxy to lighting replicas of the New York skyline. AMX control systems in excess of $100,000 to control the theater and all the scenes before the movie.
SOURCE: Custom Home Technology Brad A. Towsley/TRIBUNE