Hollywood comes to luxury homes


When Judy Garland starred in A Star Is Born, you knew that she and James Mason were real Hollywood royalty because they had a projector in their own parlor.

While that classic movie still holds up, that particular bit of symbolism might not. Nowadays, movie theaters are almost as common as Jacuzzi tubs and stainless-steel appliances in luxury homes. There, they provide a wide range of entertainment for family members and holiday guests alike.

No wonder. Flat-screen TVs have expanded to 100 inches or more and 8-foot rear-projection movie screens are becoming commonplace. At the same time, movies are often released on DVD the same year they hit the local Multiplex, as witness the 2007 comedy sensation Knocked Up.

Luxury builders like Toll Brothers are accordingly showing home theaters or media rooms in many of their model homes.

We leave room behind the walls for the audio-visual equipment, design director Lee Golanoski said. It is available in  so many options, the buyers can install their own.

They can choose a 60-inch flat TV or a rear projection screen, he said. They can also put in surround sound systems. There is a lot of personal choice.

Some buyers might want tiered floors (like the ones you see in some movie theaters, so you wont be staring at the back of someone elses head). They might select either authentic theater seats or comfortable couches. They can even put in a popcorn machine! he added.

A popcorn machine was on display in the Oakton showroom of Front Row Entertainment Technology, which designs and installs home theaters, for clients including another luxury builder, Sekas Homes. The exhibit also features six tiered plush and leather chairs that vibrate with the action on the screen, acoustic walls, side lamps resembling old-fashioned film strips, controlled overhead lighting and carpeting. The eight-foot movie screen is framed by a front platform and faux curtains. The kids like to get up on that platform and perform, owner Scott Sawyer said, thus providing their own entertainment.

While this screen comes equipped with a rear movie projector, it can also run live TV shows. Conversely, movies or music can be broadcast throughout the house. In addition, the screen can be used for video games. It can even display a golf course for putting practice.

This particular home theater would cost about $40,000, he said. We do a lot of them for $2 million to $4 million homes and just put one into a $5 million house in Great Falls, he reported. 

Starting at $10,000, the basic Standard Theater System comes without the reclining chairs and theatrical room decor, but with the wall-mount screen, universal remote control, acoustic treatment, lighting control and DVD player.

The company can install either movie-style screens or large flat TV screens, he said. For a separate theater, the move-style screens are more popular. The TV screen appears more often in a media room within a larger recreation area. These media rooms start at $6,000, he said. Either way, the entertainment center is often found in the finished lower level of the home.

While the equipment has certainly gotten better, you might believe that the movies have probably not. In that case, you can always watch A Star is Born on Turner Classic Movies, a DVD disc or even a VHS tape on that home theater screen.