Cineplex Comes Home

Shannon McGinnis is one of the few people who has found that his hobby/avocation is also his vocation. In 1997, he started his Custom Electronics Design and Installation company as a one-person operation; it has grown to include three additional installers at present. Home Technology Systems, Inc., currently provides Wichita, Kansas, and the surrounding areas with a single-source solution for all custom home and small business electronics needs and desires, including home theater, systems integration, lighting control, structured cabling, multiroom audio, and security.

When McGinnis was approached by Cornerstone Builders, the builder of this gorgeous home, to install various home systems as well as a dedicated theater, he was chagrined to find out that the client, Bill Warren, owns a chain of Cineplexes all over Wichita, with plans to expand his operation into Oklahoma City. That’s also when the anxiety set in.

Until relatively recently, commercial theaters have been the standard to which home theaters aspire. This fact is only now changing due to the proliferation of really great high-def displays and 1080p high-def movie content from Blu-ray and HD DVD that allows folks to get spectacular high-def images at home—not to mention immersing surround sound experiences. McGinnis and his team were slightly intimidated that the homeowner, along with his audio/video experts, would be watching their every move like hawks, mindful of any audio/video tweak not up to their exacting commercial standards. Moreover, Spangenberg Phillips, the architectural team that designs the homeowner’s commercial theaters, was handling the interior design.

The opposite actually proved to be true. “We did experience some initial apprehension about how to please this type of client. They can get pretty hard-core in terms of finding flaws in images and audio,” says McGinnis. “But it turned out to be a very fun project for us. We meshed very well with the architects, and I think it was also a learning experience for them, simply because we have more experience on the residential side.”

One interesting compromise between the commercial and residential world views was the large Stewart Filmscreen 144-inch-diagonal 16:9 screen. The client wanted a really big screen, a screen that was larger than we would normally recommend for front-row viewing. “When we evaluate a home theater, we look at the size of the screen and then how close the first row of seating is,” says McGinnis. “We try to prevent a situation where you would have to move your head from side to side to catch all the action on the screen at one time.” Of course, the client’s perspective, coming from a commercial-theater background, is that this kind of back and forth is actually desirable, helping you get totally involved in the film. After many discussions between Home Technology Systems and the client, the team finally settled on the 16:9 screen with no masking, which is amply lit by Runco’s VX-1000ci DLP projector mounted to the ceiling at the back of the room.

When the homeowner is ready to watch a movie, he’s in business with just one touch on the Universal Remote Control MX 3000. The gorgeous, red velvet curtains dramatically open to signify the start of the show. “Because there was no widespread wholehouse integration in the home, we normally don’t look at a Crestron type of solution, but something a little simpler,” says McGinnis. The MX 3000 is a highly capable remote that allows easy operation of complex audio/video systems.

A 9.2-channel surround sound system consisting of JBL HT Series speakers and subwoofers really packs a sonic punch in the room. Custom columns designed by Spangenberg Phillips hide the speakers, and elegant red acoustic panels—also designed by the architects—break up both the sound in the room, as well as the chocolate-brown walls with a splash of color. There are no worries that sound will infiltrate other parts of the home, thanks to the triple-platform concrete floor, 12-inch-thick concrete walls, and insulated/soundboarded ceiling.

The theater sounds and looks great—and we’re not the only ones who think so. The theater took home the Level II Silver Technical Design for Large Home Theaters in the $98,500 to $115,000 range at the 2007 CEDIA Expo.

In terms of dcor, the client wanted his home theater to mimic the flamboyant design of his commercial Cineplexes—an admitted departure from the contemporary look of the rest of his home. “He wanted lots of reds, but he didn’t want it to be garish. It had to be upscale,” says McGinnis.

This, of course, is where Spangenberg Phillips came into the picture. They aided with the punched-metal ceiling, the overall look and feel of the theater, carpeting, the aforementioned speaker columns and acoustic panels, and the pink neon light on the ceiling. Yes, that’s right—that is a neon light around the perimeter of the theater’s ceiling. While some home theater enthusiasts may balk at the idea of putting neon—much less pink neon—into an audio/video sanctuary, it adds a warm glow that helps this theater stand out from the dime-a-dozen classic home theaters that are currently en vogue.

Even the eight Premier Home Theatre Surroundings Bijou chairs are nods to the client’s commercial venues; the chair manufacturer actually custom upholstered the chairs in the same fabric that the client uses on the chairs in his movie theaters.

“The home theater room is actually very similar to the commercial design, including the detail elements and materials, but just at a smaller, more individual scale,” explains Spangenberg Phillips. “The art deco theme is the trademark of his theaters, so it just made sense that his home theater room would echo that theme. Translating the design from the commercial cinema to his residence was fairly straightforward. We did, however, put a more contemporary spin on the art deco elements so that the home theater room would complement the entire residence, which we designed in a Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired Prairie style.”

You may be wondering why the owner of a Cineplex is subscribing to the home theater trend, but perhaps the two are not mutually exclusive. All we know is that this is one client who feels just as happy in his home theater as he is in his movie theaters.

Shannon or Doris McGinnis
Home Technology Systems, Inc.
8955 West Monroe Circle, Suite 400
Wichita, KS 67209
(316) 722-HOME