25 Los Angeles Area Home Movie Theater Designs Rated, Best to Worst

Dark and Nearly Perfect Home Movie Theater

Home movie theaters designs are all over the map. And this is a good thing. It’s your house, your theater, your baby–make it the way you want it.

Still, I would rather have a good home movie theater than a bad one, and to that end, I chose 25 home theaters from Los Angeles real estate listings to get a sense of what’s really out there.  The idea is to remove the emotions from this discussion and be constructive about what we see, keeping in mind these tenets:  1.)  Does the design live in service of the viewing experience? 2.)  Does the design do a good job of balancing movie viewing needs with other room uses? Keep in mind that these rooms are overlit because the pictures are about selling the property, not about creating a mood. The stagers or real estate agents did certain weird things to enhance the photos, like positioning popcorn makers next to screens, and I have ignored those oddities.  Theaters that induce yawns:  mere rooms that get turned into movie theaters, with few special attention taken towards the needs of movie watching.  Sublime:  multiple tiers, darker colors, coffered ceilings and recessed lights, projectors not flat screens.

If you own an image and don’t want it here, send me a polite e-mail and I’ll take it down.

Great Theater Designs

Two views of the same theater, above.  Dark and tasteful, with real theater seats.

Dark, with real theater seats and under seat lighting.  Tiered seating.

 

Above, one of the few home theaters that use curtains on the walls.    

The home movie theater, above, is going for the classic 1920s Deco look.             

Medium Quality–Not Great, Not Bad

Home movie theater designs that fall in the mid-range tend to overdo it with the white upholstery.

Above is a good example of a mid-quality home movie theater that barely misses the mark. The black ceiling and walls are fantastic, but the carpeting is too light-colored and the seating is oddly arranged.

Bad Theater Designs

Bad designs are marked by light colors, bright colors, and busy patterns.

Build Easy Rope Light / Wiring Channels from Cheap Trim

Cross Section of Rope Light / Wire Channel

Rope lights hidden in a ceiling-high channel and casting a glow against the ceiling is a fantastic way to create mood lighting. For home movie theater builders, rope lighting is almost a necessity. What’s the easiest way to build channels or chases for rope lights?

Answer

Build chases out of 8-foot long finger-jointed pine trim. Each length of chase consists of three boards:  two 1 x 4 boards and one 1 x 3 board. Use one 1 x 4 as the base, then nail the other two boards on top to form the walls.

Details

Agonizing over how to build your rope light channels? Tear your hair out no longer. While all light channels do need to be adapted to each user’s particular needs, I found one that works perfectly for me.

First, determine how much space you need. The older style thick, plastic-encased rope lights are great for outside uses, but indoors you do not need that heavy casing. Using thin, tape-like LED “rope” lights is vital because this frees up a vast amount of space. Greater space means that the lights can lay flat, without the problem of them accidentally sticking up or being seen by tall people. It also allows you to add other wires, like speaker wires or movie screen controllers.

My wire chases use cheap pine trim boards and are easy to build with a power brad nailer and wood glue. Because my room is fairly small, I wanted them to hug as tight to the wall and ceiling as possible. At the same time, I wanted them far enough away from the ceiling to allow the lights to cast a glow on the ceiling. There also has to be enough space between the top edge of the outer “wall” of the chase and the ceiling, so that you can get your drill in there to attach the chase to the wall. Finally, you need enough space to get your fingers in the chase to arrange the wires.

The Materials

  • Two 1 x 4s (Actual width: 3.5 inches)
  • One 1 x 3 (Actual width: 2.5 inches)

The brand of trim that I used, and which I like using for other parts of my house, is a primed pine board called Sum Guard EX by Composite Technology International. I wish I could give you a Home Depot equivalent but they have nothing like this.

The Sum Guard EX has a prime coat that is far thicker than the usual primed board. It really is more priming than I need for an interior application, but I like the board so much because it is smooth, straight and true, and it has more-or-less square edges. No, the boards are not defective. Rather, CTI adds some kind of very slight camber to the boards that probably has a use when it comes to trimming doors and windows. Either way, the camber can either matter to you or not, as you will see below.

Along with the trim, you really should have an electric or pneumatic nailer. Your job will go so much faster (since you’re producing many of these chases). Mostly, though, you’ll be able to hold the boards in place with one hand, while the other hand does the nailing. You cannot do that when hand-nailing finish nails.

Above photo:  This is me pretending to nail one board to another.

Variations and Making the Thing Better

As with most home remodeling projects, this one is a compromise between ease and quality.  Here are variations you might consider:

Front Wall Overhang

One variation I considered but eventually decided not to go with was the one pictured directly above. The front “wall,” instead of being a 1 x 3 board would have been yet another 1 x 4 board. It would have been tacked to the front of the base 1 x 4 board with an overhang that had the benefit of obscuring seams between the boards. It also would have given me flexibility in raising or lowering the height of that front wall, rather than having to go with the 2.5 inches mandated by the 1 x 3 board.

Longer Trim Boards Mean Less Seams

One benefit of using trim is that trim comes in longer versions than 8 foot. I chose 8 foot because it was easier to handle and because I would have only saved one or two seams by using longer boards.

Wood Filling Horizontal Seams

This is a variation I vacillated on but ended up doing: filling in the horizontal seams with wood filler.  I’m always suspicious of wood filler’s long-term prospects. But I figured that this was an interior application and the filler would get primed over, giving it more strength.

 

Easy Way to Hang an Elite Electric Motorized Projector Screen

Elite electric motorized projector screens are difficult to hang because of their hidden hanger brackets.  Their weight and unwieldiness complicate matters.  Is there a simple and secure way to hang them?

Easy Answer

Create a wood backer plate that runs the length of the screen and attach metal braces at each end for the screen to rest on.

Details

Bracket for Projector Screen

Projector screens can be hard to hang, due to their weight and floppiness, combined with the absolute need not to drop the screen, as you can permanently mess up their smooth scrolling ability.

Elite screens are difficult to hang because you cannot reach a drill into the bracket area in order to screw it onto the wall.  That’s after you somehow manage to lift and hold the screen into place.  You would also need to have two studs conveniently located at each screw point, which isn’t going to happen.

The solution is to make your own “wall” by running a wood board the length of the screen.  Then you don’t have to worry about stud spacing.  All you need to do is to attach that wood backer plate at three or more points along the wall.  Attaching the screen to the backer plate is a separate matter.

Materials

  • Real wood board like hemlock or pine the length of the screen or longer.  It should be a “one-by” board, like 1 x 4 or 1 x 6.
  • Metal corner braces, 3-inch (2), along with included screws
  • 1/4 inch size bolts (2) and nuts

Size Screen on Backer Board

Put the backer board on the ground.  Place the screen on top of the backer board so that the screen’s top is to the side.

Attach Metal Braces

Place the braces at each end, under the screen’s bracket.  Leave a tiny bit of wiggle room, but not too much (1/16 inch to 1/8 inch).

Attach Backer Board to Wall

Screw board onto wall, into at least 3 studs.

Place Screen on Braces

Locate the mid point of the screen.  Pick up screen near mid-point and lift it onto the braces.

Add Bolts

Put bolt upward through brace’s hole about 1/2 inch or higher.  Do this for both sides.