“When I go to other people’s houses, I don’t like watching TV on their smaller screens and listening through their wimpy stereo sound systems. It feels like you’re watching TV while slightly blind and deaf.” – Allen Wong, “25 Things Rich People Won’t Tell You,” Reader’s Digest, October 2013
I’m not going to call myself “rich” by any means, but I will freely tell you that I hate watching movies at other people’s homes. (TV I can tolerate. Usually.) Invite me over for dinner and conversation. Invite me over to play Axis and Allies or Settlers of Catan. Invite me over to just sit around and discuss Salinger or the world of Divergent over a hard-to-find craft beer. Any of those things. But don’t ask me to see the new DVD you just rented at Redbox.*
I’m fortunate enough to have a pretty stellar home theater system, with a flagship Marantz pre-pro, 9-channels (height AND back, thank you very much), a subwoofer with six 14-inch drivers that makes my drywall quiver, a Kaleidescape movie server, and a 115-inch widescreen with Panamorph lens system, and I did not make this investment in entertainment so I could leave my home to go over and watch the latest 9-figure Hollywood blockbuster on a screen with less inches than I have years-being-alive or with audio that sounds like it arrived to my ears via string and a tin can.
(You can check out my home theater here…)
Does this make me a snob? Maybe. But I really don’t care. And be honest: You totally feel the same way, don’t you? I mean, I know it can’t just me and my man, Wong, that are willing to pony-up and admit we both die a little bit inside every time someone invites us over to watch something on their, umm, “entertainment” system. Also, who will admit that when they’re over at someone else’s home, they find a moment to slip over and sneak a quick peek at the wiring and configuration settings of their gear, making sure things are wired to at least give the system a fighting chance at producing a quasi-decent experience? Or that while you’re watching, a large part of you is actually sitting there agonizing with the internal torment of whether the speaker settings have been dialed-in correctly and whether they selected the best audio soundtrack available on the disc?
We are fortunate enough to work and live in a world where awesome audio and video is a fact of daily life. We are continually exposed to latest cutting-edge, amazing technologies, and once you have seen the light and been exposed to what is possible in home entertainment, it’s tough to ever go back. From a technology standpoint, we are all glorious, full-res, high-def living in a grainy, 4x3, black-and-white world. And, by God, it’s up to us to bring the world into the color!
Fortunately, technology isn’t a forced 20-shots-into-the-stomach rabies treatment, and most of the world desperately wants to be colorized. Also fortunate is that you no longer have to be a multi-millionaire, Lamborghini-owning, app developer to have a solid home entertainment experience.
In the past, a true home theater experience using a front projection system started at $20,000 and required a house with a dedicated, windowless room with a single door like a CDC biosafety level 4 facility. Today a multi-million-pixel projector can be had starting around $1,000 and new screen technologies produce stunning images in rooms with enough ambient lighting to watch and read. If you can’t convince them to go front-pro, a 60, 70 or 80-inch LED TV can deliver a cinematic experience that can be installed in any room. A relatively full-featured AVR can be had for under $600 that will process all the latest audio formats and allow streaming of millions of songs via the Internet. Couple that with a speaker system that fits the look of the look and you can easily build a solid home theater experience for someone for under $5000 including installation and a user-friendly control system.
The price of joining the home theater club has been greatly reduced, opening membership to many new people. People who just need a little education and exposure to know what kinds of entertainment options are available to them. Not only are these great sales opportunities – and every installer knows that the “home run” job is that one day, get-in/get-out retro that leaves a terrific system in the client’s home and a nice check in your pocket – these installs will create an army of snobs that will go forth and carry your message.
Wouldn’t you love to have your clients telling their friends, “I’m sorry, I just can’t go and watch a movie at your house. It’s not you, it’s me. My new home theater system is just so awesome that it has just spoiled me for anything else. Why don’t I give you the name of my installer and he can hook you up. THEN you can have me over…”?
* (I’m sorry, SCN Mag’s Kirsten Nelson. I’m sure that your “movie cave” with laptop is cozy as hell, but you will *never* convince me it is the right way to watch a movie. Ever.)
John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.