A Basement Theater Like No Other Page 2

The elaborate décor in the 12-seat, 19 x 20-foot theater takes things to a whole ’nother level. There are two prominent golden statues of the Egyptian gods Anubis and Horus that were purchased from a distributor of Middle Eastern statuary. The hieroglyphic panels are prefabricated fiberglass obtained from a haunted-house supply service for use in mummy scenes; Jim painted them beige and stained them with dark brown wash to give the proper color and effect. Faux stones framing the screen are molded from hard architectural foam and painted in beige and a brown wash to make a sandstone-like texture. The same material appears on the projector housing—which includes two fans that bring in cool air from the theater and blow out warm air to the street (through old-style ventilation ports you might actually see on New York City buildings). The theater’s columns are made similarly, though to embellish the capitals on top, acrylic paint was applied with a dry-brush technique to effect fading.

Meanwhile, the fabric wall panels—which function as absorptive acoustic treatments—are made from foam air-conditioning batting covered with an Egyptian lotus print material, framed with crown molding that’s stained to match the rest of the décor. Also helping with the acoustics is the soft fiber-optic starfield nestled into the coffered ceiling. “The idea was to give the visual impression of a theater built into an Egyptian temple that’s open to the stars,” says Jim. For sound isolation, the theater is built from double-layer acoustic sheetrock panels, with rubber spacers used between the sheetrock in the ceiling to create an air gap that prevents sound from moving to the upper floors of the house.


The décor is something to look at; so is the picture something to see, and the sound something to hear. A Sony VPL-VW665ES 4K projector beams images onto a 140-inch- diagonal Screen Innovations Slate 4K 16:9 screen, from source components that include a Sony Blu-ray player and PlayStation 4 console, a Roku Ultra 4K media streamer, and any of the six TiVo Bolt cable boxes used around the house. Audio comes out of an Integra DTR-60.6 9.2-channel A/V receiver. It drives a 7.2.2-channel Dolby Atmos/DTS:X system featuring all Episode speakers. Three of the company’s Signature ESS-1700T IWLCR in-walls with 6-inch woofers are up front for the left, center, and right channels. Two pair of ESS-1700T Point in-ceiling speakers function for front and back surrounds, while a third pair placed about midway back perform Atmos/DTS:X height-channel duties. A couple of ES-SUB-TRP10-500-BLK 10-inch powered subwoofers are nicely hidden up front in the elaborate pedestals constructed for each statue.


A double-door media closet at the rear of the theater swings open to provide access to a disc library and key local sources, such as the Blu-ray player and game console. But the real heart of the system is in a hidden closet back behind heavy curtains in the Arcade. Two tall equipment racks house a variety of gear, including the A/V receiver, Control4 processors (which run lighting and automa- tion for the theater and the rest of the home), TiVo boxes, and the guts for the Sonos multiroom audio system.


Theater system control—as well as lighting, HVAC, security, and distributed music—can be accessed with any tablet or smartphone running the C4 app from anywhere in the house, or from the wall-mounted touchpanels found in each room. But a single Control4 handheld remote is really all that’s required to run the theater. “The Integrated Home techs did a great job programming the remote,” Jim says. “We start the show with one custom button-push, which fades out the lights and starfield, fades the vintage movie-theme walk- in music down to zero, and starts the projec- tor. The projector warm-up time matches the music and lighting fade right to the second. We then select our source right on the remote, and we’re off and running. At the end of the movie, we hit another single, custom button, and the process reverses.”


The music for the theater and throughout the basement is provided by the eight-zone, 31-speaker Sonos multiroom system. Different themed playlists are fed to each space according to its motif, and special sound-effect tracks programmed to change seasonally are piped to the street. During spring and summer, you can hear children playing, with a backdrop of traffic noise. In a nod to Halloween, fall brings the eerie sounds of blowing wind and howling dogs. And for the holiday season, it’s back to traffic noise—with Christmas carolers performing in the distance.





Of course, all of this elaborate planning and Disney-like attention to detail would be for naught if the Bronx super-basement was simply that forgotten place downstairs. But Jim says it gets plenty of steady action. “The soda shop is the food hangout for fun meals, milk shakes, and New York egg creams,” he says. “The pub is the party room when we have visitors and jam sessions. Visitors also love the Arcade because it’s so unusual to be able to shoot at a Coney Island shooting gallery or play authentic vintage pinball games inside a house. The theater probably gets used the most—almost every night. We do our own film festivals, showing horror films for all of October, holiday movies for December, and special weekly themes like Film Noir Week, Abbott & Costello Week, War Movie Week, etc.”


Perhaps best of all, Jim gets to enjoy watching his elderly parents revisit their own rich New York City history, any time they want to. The elevator helps them get up and down. “They use the basement just as much as we do,” he notes with satisfaction. “They love watching old films from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s in the theater.” Who says you can’t go home?


brenro's picture


gabemtz83's picture

Nice Room but come on! Putting episode speakers and an Integra 60.6??? Thats like putting walmart tires on a ferrari!! SMH !! At least you have a good projector!