The traditional home theater with locked-in seats, movie screen and dimmed lights has evolved into the multiuse room where family members watch movies, have sleepovers and entertain guest by watching sports events.
Robert Dreher, founder of Custom Quality Construction LLC, and his wife, Padma Wick, have owned the Boulder-based business since 1993. In 1996, the business expanded to include Custom Quality Theaters to design and build custom home theaters.
“People simply started asking how we could help them create a home theater,” Dreher said. “We enjoy these types of projects because our clients usually allow us to have more design latitude and flexibility with no main theme in mind. We can really use our creativity and have fun with the creation of media rooms.”
Custom Quality Construction works on one to two projects at a time and employs specialty contractors, depending on the project. Dreher said the latest trend for media rooms is to be multi-functional for the entire family to use. Parents and children can enjoy the room at the same time by playing video games and watching movies.
“One of my clients added on a media room for his daughter and friends to have a place to hang out,” Dreher said. “This way, the kids are home and the parents know what they are doing.”
Many people are now interested in having the entire house set up for various types of media. This can include lighting, acoustics and color themes. The idea is to integrate all of the various platforms and allow people the freedom to access the technology from anywhere in their home at the touch of a button. This can be accomplished by the use of a mobile phone.
“People want to be able to use their smart phones to access their music library and listen to their favorite song in any room of the house,” Dreher said. “Multiple people can use their phone to play different music in different rooms.”
Options for media rooms include one large flat-screen television or multiple flat-screen televisions, along with speakers that can stand out as furniture or can be installed as part of the wall. Other innovative ideas include a retractable movie screen or projector that can be hidden when the room is functioning in another capacity such as the living room. Many media rooms are sports-themed and include a bar.
The price to create a media room varies from a few hundred dollars with one piece of additional technology and can reach as high as $200,000 or more. Older homes that are not pre-wired may cost more to create a media room than a house with wiring in place.
One easy solution to create a media room is to install a Sonos wireless system that allows users to stream music services, Internet radio or their personal music library. The system can cost between $500 and $600.
Dreher has his own media room in his house where he converted his unfinished basement.
“We invite people over for dinner and a movie,” he said. “Many people thought they knew what a home theater was, but after watching a movie in our home, they understand how magical it can truly be.”
Other options for viewing movies include streaming movies from the Internet via a paid service. This option has become so popular that the Internet can become overloaded with requests, causing the movie to pause or stop in the middle of viewing.
“This is a case of the technology being ahead of infrastructure, Dreher said.
Bob Murphy, Boulder branch manager of ListenUp Inc., said the most common request that people have regarding a media room is to make it as simple as possible.
“Folks get overwhelmed with technology challenges,” he said. “Integration makes it easy to operate with one device or keypad in the wall, not six remotes or the need for an electrical engineering degree.”
Every room in a home can be designed to have special features, including music, surround sound and on-demand viewing options.
“We are integrating technologies by networking applications,” Murphy said. “We sell the equipment that enhances the whole experience.”
He said big-screen televisions and surround sound with five to seven speakers allow the audience to see and hear the movie at its full effect. He also said that some clients enjoy older technology such as turn tables, allowing people to pick up and touch vinyl records.
“We talk to our customers and find out what is important to their lifestyle,” he said. “Budget comes into play. A lot of people use the basement as their media room so they can crank up the volume with the adults upstairs and kids downstairs.”
ListenUp has locations in Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs. It opened in 1972 and has had many repeat customers throughout the years.