Preston Taylor wanted the works.
With a newly finished basement, Taylor and his wife opted for a 110-inch projection screen, surround-sound speakers, custom wiring, seven black leather reclining theater chairs and, yes, even a popcorn machine.
Taylor wanted a movie theater in his house.
“Let’s just say we’re going to Blockbuster a lot more,” says Taylor, of Townsend. “And watching the Eagles on Sundays on that big screen is just like being at the game.”
Home theaters are fast joining kitchens and bathrooms on the Mount Rushmore of household rooms. Taylor, a retired empty-nester, says the basement theater assembled by TheaterXtreme in Wilmington has enhanced his home and allows he and his wife to entertain guests more often.
“It’s hard for people to sell their homes right now, and people have a desire to feather their nest,” says Justin Schakelman, vice president of sales and marketing at TheaterXtreme. “They’re looking for meaningful, profitable, fun home improvements.”
The old formula of a couch, a TV and a video player has gone the way of the Betamax. Customized theater rooms can create the feel of a Cineplex, right down to the velvet rope, cushy seats and popcorn machine. In many cases, the sound and picture quality is better than a movie theater’s, and a handful of Delaware stores are more than happy to punch your ticket.
“What we do is create an entire environment that your family can enjoy every single night of the week,” Schakelman says. “That goes beyond watching Blu-ray movies in 5.1 surround sound and having hi-definition contrast on the screen. I’m talking of a true, multi-media environment that’s beyond home entertainment.”
As new technology becomes available, more folks are devoting entire areas to home entertainment.
“We’re seeing people going for the whole room,” says Les Greenberg, general manager at Hi Fi House in Wilmington. “We have two rooms in our store that are set up and ready to go by a company called Acoustic Innovations. Those come with the sound panels on the wall, the seating and everything in between.”
Don’t let the “theater” in home theater throw you. You can do a lot more with an 80-inch front projection screen than show movies. Systems can be customized to fulfill any need, from television, Internet and email to digital photo management and beyond, Schakelman says.
Setting up your home theater with the help of local shops such as Overture in Wilmington has major advantages, namely, better brands and service.
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“We do carry lines like Runco, which is exclusive to us and is the standard of the video world,” says Overture president Terry Menacker. “And sure, we carry some of the same brands that the other stores will have, but the difference is we will adjust and calibrate them to look better.”
Local places will also work with you on other considerations. Do you want tiered leather massage chairs in your theater room, or would you rather stick with the sofa? Do you plan on rocking out so hard with your new speakers that you need sound-dampening wall and ceiling covers?
At TheaterXtreme, options from microfiber chairs to illuminated cup holders are at your fingertips. Or maybe you’d like that 60-inch flat screen to be a little more camouflaged. Look into stealth displays from Overture or outdoor speakers disguised as rocks, pillars and benches at Delaware Home Theater Company.
“We can create a system that is invisible,” Menacker says. “We have products that will lower a painting or a photograph over your plasma or LCD screen. Or the screen itself can drop into a cabinet or out from a bed or up in the ceiling. I won’t say anything’s possible, but we’re close.”
It’s also becoming easier to control all your new toys. At Delaware Home Theater Company in Rehoboth Beach, owner Eric Martin carries a line of home automation controls by a company called Crestron.
“You cannot only control TV and audio with the push of a button, but also lighting, HVAC systems, security and more,” Martin says.
Though tricked-out home theaters are luxury items, you don’t have to be Rupert Murdoch to afford one. At Overture, renowned from Middletown to Minsk for its tough-to-find quality equipment, top-shelf systems are within every family’s reach.
“You don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to shop here,” Menacker says. “We have fairly affordable systems. Thing is, our affordable systems would be better designed, set up and calibrated than the same at big box stores.”
It’s easy to wince at some price tags, Schakelman says, but that’s because there is virtually no ceiling on how high the high-end systems can go.
“We can put the look of a $50,000 to $100,000 room into your home for about $7,500,” Schakelman says. “This really doesn’t have to be a very expensive endeavor.”
Greenberg breaks down the math: “Let’s say a 46-inch flat screen comes in at $1,000. You put an audio system in for another $2,000, install it all for another $600 to $1,000, and for $3,000 to $5,000 you have a surround system in your room. That’s not bad, and you can go as high as the sky.”
It all comes down to what you want your home theater system to do. “We could put together a system that costs under $5,000 that would blow away a system that costs twice as much,” Menacker says. “You only have to be a music lover or a movie enthusiast to be welcome in our store. You don’t have to be a millionaire to have this stuff.”
Menacker recommends starting small. “You’re better off buying less, but better quality. A good store will design your system to be expandable.”
How high can you go?
At Overture that might mean fiber-optic stars on the ceiling of your theater room. At Hi Fi House, maybe it’s the SonusFiber speakers for $32,000 a pair. Can you get a perfectly good set of speakers for way less? Sure. But as Greenberg says, “Can you hear the difference between your brother’s voice and your father’s voice? Yes. You can hear the difference between good speakers and great speakers.”
A high-end system from Overture might include electronics from Classé audio, a media server by Sooloos, BMW speakers, JL Audio Gotham subwoofers and a digital cinema quality projector. The whole system costs around $175,000. And the specs far outclass just about every local movie theater.