When the Theater Next Door Has No Soundproofing

A Howell, New Jersey man who lives less than 200 feet from the back of the Xscape Theatres that opened last year has had it with the “rumbling thunder” that can happen any time between 11 a.m. when the Cineplex opens to 1 a.m. when it closes.

The thrill of “rumbling thunder” from magnificent subwoofers is something home theater enthusiasts who read Sound & Vision (and their significant others) know all too well.

The offending theater is well-appointed, boasting 4K digital projection on 70-foot screens, immersive 50-speaker Dolby Atmos surround sound, and electric leather recliners.

Marc Parisi is not impressed.

“[The rumble] is daily, it’s constant, it’s a complete disturbance to the peaceful enjoyment of our life,” Parisi, told New Jersey 101.5 after the Howell Township Zoning Board upheld a previous decision that his noise complaint is unenforceable.

In April 2015, well before the theater opened in mid-2016, Xscape’s manager and acoustical expert assured residents the sound levels emitted from the facility would be inaudible and would not rise above routine traffic noise.

Marc Parisi's property is adjacent to the movie theater.

Parisi, 38, countered that he and his neighbors have been living with “this noise nuisance” since the theater opened and noted that due to his home’s proximity to the theater only his family is disturbed inside and outside. He went so far as to hire a noise expert who testified before the zoning board that Xscape is in violation of Howell’s noise ordinance, which prohibits “plainly audible” sound production and reproduction devices between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

In testimony before the zoning board, Eric Zwerling, president of The Noise Consultancy and director of the Rutgers Noise Technical Assistance Center, shared the results of a recent site investigation he conducted and said the board failed to consider the impact of low-frequency sound on the nearby residence. “It sounded like drums inside his bedroom.”

Ah, yes…the bass. It’s always the bass.

“It is inexcusable in this day and age that they would build a theater and not have it soundproofed, especially if they’re going to build a theater next to residential homes,” said Parisi, adding that he “will seek other avenues to have this rectified,” including filing a noise complaint in municipal court.

Related reading that should be of interest to the owners of Xscape Theatres:

Soundproofing 101: How to Keep Your Home Theater Quiet

Billy's picture

I am on his side. I love my home theater, and have two subs. I can rock the pictures on the walls upstairs, but I live in the country where all I bother are those pesky bunnies that eat my garden. (with a smile) It is inexcusable to build a commercial operation near residential homes without appropriate sound deadenening, what were they thinking? It might be cheaper to hire expert lawyers to stifle the residents then to refit the building properly, but it is a public relations nightmare. Unfortunately almsot everyone (who does not live nearby) could care less, and thats where the theater owners know they can get away from it. The public loves that theater and as they are not bothered themselves by it, will not stand up for the neighbors. We had something similar around here. About a decade ago, Mr. John Menard (Yeah, that local billionaire guy with the home improvement chains) decided one day that he was going to put am Indy race car track near us so he could practice his cars and have small races. The people in the nearby towns were thrilled, though they wouldn't have to hear it. Every weekend we would have 5000 people crowding the area, add in that noise to the sound of daily 10000 RPM engines winding without a muffler causing a ruining of the local serenity and a dramatic decrease in our property values. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of a race track, just not in my backyard. When wealthy people do things like this, they need to put them where no one else is impacted, or buy out everyone nearby (and make it worth their while) . Somehow, we all organized and stopped that race tack. The people in the two major towns 25 miles away from us moaned, as did all the owners of the restaurants and hotels, but we all breathed a sigh of relief. AS the public, we all must be aware and support each others rights, and isn't that the American way anyhow? The theater owners should retrofit that place for sound deadening, or buy out the neighborhood in a way that makes them all happy. I think the retrofit would be the most cost effective, but I bet that they will just keep pushing less financially capable "little people" around with fat cat lawyers. And that makes me sad, unfortunately, THAT seems to be the new American Way.

javanp's picture

I'm afraid to convert my garage into a home theater. Sure, we have plenty of great methods for sound proofing, but with the massively overpowered subwoofer systems we can build these days, how far will normal methods of soundproofing actually go to stop bass from traveling out of the theater and into my neighbor's house?

pw's picture

A lot of Lawyers are out of work.. Find one and sue, sue, sue..