Last night I'm doing some last-minute computering as I prepare to settle in and watch the Season 4 premier of AMC's “Mad Men.” (Preparation for Mad Men is a three-step process: Step 1 - find the largest glass you have. Step 2 - fill glass with heavily chilled vodka and vermouth. Step 3 - drink throughout show, imagining that you are, in fact, Don Draper.)
So while I'm several sips into the process, I pull up MSN's home page to basically see if the world is likely to continue spinning for the next hour or so when I find an all out attack against our industry on the home page. Under the giant, bold-type banner of “8 Home Upgrades That Aren't Worth It” is the subhead, “Thinking of adding a whirlpool bath or an elaborate home theater? Why you should think again.” Then there is this picture:
Since I'm a glutton for punishment, I follow this link to the story and click through to sixth “most overrated home project”: Elaborate home theaters.
The paragraph claims rooms that only serve one purpose (ie: that dedicated media room our industry is so proud of) are falling out of favor. Then the writer, clearly someone who hates technology and movies with equal aplomb and who probably won't feel comfortable until we've finished steamrolling over the last LPs and then are all standing around a pile of burning books chanting “Kumbaya!” basically says, “Hey, idiot! Don't you know that you can buy a system-in-a-box along with a flat-panel TV and an industrial-sized tub of mayonnaise all on your next shopping trip to Costco! Only that toothless hillbilly from Deliverance would even consider buying something more awesome!” (I might have taken some liberty with my paraphrasing... She didn't actually mention mayonnaise.)
The article then talks about the Caligula-like excess of “shelling out $20,000 or more” for this dedicated room. Clearly purchasing a room solely intended for enjoying movies -- and concerts, and TV, and video gaming, and music, and karaoke, and… -- is little different than that secret doorway leading to your private sex dungeon and should be cause for immediate water boarding.
Listed in this $20,000 figure (which actually doesn't even approach the price of my projector and anamorphic lens system; I probably should just set myself on fire for the travesty my life has become) are further signs of the apocalypse, such as “cinema seating, tacky red carpeting, projector, Blu-ray player, and big screen.”
Then, as the final clincher proving that you are clearly borderline sociopathic if you choose to install a dedicated home theater, she cites the world's leading home theater authority. This person is, of course, Bob Vila. Bob, who probably has at least a single theater under his belt, says that you're better to just put the system in your family room because, well, then you won't be “bringing in a lot of new synthetic material and therefore don't have to deal with all of the outgassing, or release of fumes, from these materials.”
I can tell you that I did indeed smell my projection screen for an entire month after the install. Clearly what I mistook as “that awesome new theater smell” was just my brain slowly shutting down and drifting off to a happy place amidst the slow poisoning.
However, I will agree with this article on one point. Like great art, your clients should not buy/build/construct/ask their HTC Evo to grant as one of their three wishes a dedicated home theater room because they think that it will increase the value of their home. It won't. As an investment, a home theater is a crappy move. Basically it's like knowing what you know right now, and yet still traveling back in time and picking up a ton of Enron stock because you feel it in your gut. Also, the beauty -- or ugliness or complete and utter waste-of-space-ness -- of a theater will be in the eye of the beholder.
Your clients should build a home theater room because they want it. Deck that room out for them. Put up their Terminator posters. Hang their replica lightsabers. Experiment with the insanity that is front-height and front-width channels. Add that second (and third and fourth…) subwoofer. Put the butt-shakers under every seat (actually, don't do that. I really hate those things.) Do it all for them. But don't have them do it because they are expecting to get any money back out of it.
Do it because they love movies and want to enjoy the best experience possible. Do it because they love spending time with friends and family and a dedicated media room makes a great gathering point. Do it because they want to. Then make Bob Vila sit in the sucky seat.