The Plan

The idea from the beginning was to have a dedicated room for the theatre. We bought a new house in the early part of 2014 that had an unfinished basement allowing us to start with a nearly clean slate. I say nearly because I still had to work around a roughed in bathroom, the mechanical room, air ducts, windows, and a telepost.

After many, many hours of staring at the basement dimensions my wife and I felt that we had found the best option for where to locate the room. The house is 1,600 square feet with the basement being around 1,200. It’s a good size, but we would have to make some compromises – mainly on dimensions of the theatre.

We didn’t want the theatre to take up the majority of the basement since we still wanted to have a family room, office, and play area. And even though the plan was to live in this house for a long time, we didn’t want to limit ourselves when it came to resale. As strange as it may seem to a cinephile, most people don’t want a theatre taking up their entire basement living space.

In the end the space we marked for the theatre was 18.5′ by 10′. In a perfect world I would have liked to have had at least 20′ by 14′, but sadly I don’t live in a perfect world. The placement of an air duct running the length of the basement, and the location of the mechanical room led us to the decision that would give us something we could work with, while also leaving a good portion of the basement available for our other needs.

The next step was to determine seating. I was ok with having one row of seats, but my wife really wanted two in the hopes that we would regularly entertain people. Something we don’t do often enough. With the small size of the room I didn’t think there was any way we would be able to fit 2 rows of seating. But after reading about similar sized builds on the AVSForums I was convinced that I could do it as well. This one in particular caught my attention – The Arthouse Theater. If we could find the right seats, we would put in two rows of three power recliners.

With the room being so narrow I knew that I would need to have an acoustically transparent screen. There simply wouldn’t be enough space on either side of the screen for speaker placement. I was really hoping to cut down costs as much as possible for this build, so when I couldn’t use the screen I already owned, I was pretty disappointed.

The final consideration for the room was that I wanted the screen wall to be as clean as possible. I didn’t want to see any speakers or components. There would be no space anywhere else in the room to house the components, so I decided that the storage space under the stairs would work just fine. It was a decent sized space and was located right across the hall from the theatre, minimizing the lengths for running wire.

With a plan in place the next step was execution. It was agreed between my wife and I that we would contract out framing, drywalling, and electrical while I would take care of running all the AV wire, building the riser and screen wall, and the general assembly and finishing of the room. We toyed with idea of doing everything (except the electrical) ourselves, but the busyness of having two kids under 4, our full time jobs, and owning a retail store just made it seem impossible. We wanted to start using the theatre and the rest of the basement as soon as possible. Doing it all ourselves was just too unpredictable.