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Building the Best Team

It takes an incredible amount of talent and professionals to create the right private cinema experience.

Soup to nuts, turnkey, one-stop shop. These and other phrases with similar meanings are often heard in conversations around how to best approach the design, engineering, and completion of a private cinema. The inference is clear, if the right “soup-to-nuts, turnkey solution” is selected and produced by the best “one-stop shop,” your worries are over! Maybe. But whether it is the “one-stop shop” talking or a team, someone will need to make sure all the right ingredients are included, and that the turnkey solution is, indeed, complete.

Paradise Theater - Dream Theater
This Private Cinema (Cinema Story) was completed by a dream team that included integrator, theater builder, and private cinema design and engineering firm. The client’s response, “Thanks to all for a job extremely well done!” There is no higher reward.

Let’s focus on the shop. Most organizations that offer turnkey private cinemas are also system integrators — businesses that specialize in providing solutions in many disciplines within primarily residential environments. Generalists by necessity, integrators must have the knowledge of many low-voltage systems, including audio, video, network, lighting, security, and a seemingly never-ending list of new technologies. An integrator’s team must have enough architectural and construction knowledge to be effective implementing these technologies within challenging building projects. That is a tall order, and many exemplary integration firms we work with take that mandate seriously: staffing, training, and managing what is a rewarding, but also very challenging, enterprise. To sum it up, the integration business is not for the faint of heart!

Let’s break down what is required to be a one-stop-shop for private cinema.

Engineering. The engineering requirements for a true luxury private cinema will encompass structural, mechanical, electrical, and acoustical engineers. The structural engineering will often be included in the architect’s scope, although wisely most architects subcontract structural engineering to their trusted structural colleagues. Mechanical is often packaged with the MEP contractor, a practice that generally underserves the demands of luxury private cinema mechanical performance, specifically in the area of noise levels. Electrical engineering is likewise often relegated to the scope of project electrical subcontractors. Again, the nuance of load calcs and power integrity for AV systems are often underemphasized, potentially resulting in irreparable conditions. Speaking of nuance, lighting design, scene settings, and lighting control for private cinema is a specialized competency unto itself. Finally, acoustical engineering for high-performance private cinema rooms is a field that is more recently well understood but not always implemented accurately.

When done well, the result is transcendent realism of cinema sound and distraction-free, low-noise environments that support that immersion. Poorly executed cinema acoustics, especially in the noise category, significantly diminish the experience and are generally irreparable defects.

Related: So, How Is the Home Theater Business?

Design. Functional, or “cinema chassis” design, is the framework that coordinates all the essential elements so that the cinema supports the desired level of performance in synergy with aesthetics. This is no mean task! Again, errors and oversights here can result in functional designs that are essentially not functional. Private cinema interior design, too, is a specialization that deserves appropriate attention. This means working with the project designer or having a highly skilled interior designer on staff. Creating designs befitting the residences of our clientele and conforming with function requires talent, cooperation, and experience. All designs require construction documentation to communicate and support accurate and error-free completion.

Construction. All or most of the following professionals make up the team plying their trades within the confines of a luxury private cinema: excavation, structural concrete, framing, electrical, mechanical, acoustical, drywall, interior specialties (including carpet, fabric, millwork, and paint), furnishings, and integration. Procuring, managing, administrating, and performing quality assurance for all of these represents a considerable scope of work. It’s worth noting that no single discipline stands alone; that the integrity, quality, and ultimately the experience of the private cinema will only be as good as the weakest link.

It is an impressive roster: structural, mechanical, electrical, acoustical, and systems engineers; architectural, interior, theater, lighting, and CAD designers; excavation, structural, rough and finish carpentry, electrical, mechanical, drywall, finish specialties, and system integrators. Add to this list administration, sales, procurement, and project managers. A firm specializing in every discipline required to be a true turnkey provider of luxury private cinema would be a singularity. The reality is that organizations gravitate toward one or more services and depend on others to complete the project — a collaborative team approach. Both approaches share a common truth: both the one-stop shop and the collaborative team must bring their A game.

Each member of either organization will be called on to deliver each categories best work, every time. For those partnering with members of a collaborative team, this means assiduous project management and quality control as well as diligence in vetting all team members. The one-stop shop can add the responsibility of sourcing and maintaining employees with core competencies in every category. This is no trivial task, especially in these days where skilled personnel are hard to find. In either case, our responsibility to our clientele and our industry demand our adherence to the core competency principal.

Related: Building A Private Cinema Community

There is not a universally correct answer but there is only one right result. Every private cinema project deserves our best if we are to deliver excellence and meet every client’s expectation. Look at yourself and your company honestly and you will recognize your true values and capabilities. If it is to offer turnkey solutions, determine what that means and don’t cut yourself, your clients, or our industry short. If it is the team approach that resonates with you, discover your purpose and you will discover your core competency. Keep your skills sharp and team up with fellow masters at every required trade, holding yourself and your team accountable to each other, our clients, and that same industry.

We are all links in the private cinema industry chain. Let’s all strive to be the strongest link.