An anamorphic lens is... Cripes, I don't know. There is a specific forum for that here - http://www.avsforum.com/f/117/2-35-1-constant-image-height-chat
I just haven't checked pricing recently, but Panamorph will likely run about $5,000 with the sled, lens and anything else you may need. So, that is not an inexpensive solution for sure, but it works great.
Generally, I recommend people buy a 1.78:1 screen unless they have an extremely good reason, and the budget to go to 2.35:1. I like 2.35:1 setups when they are done right... But, that is the key concept - doing it right. The zoom method gives you 2.35:1 and you lose brightness when you do this and you lose resolution. You also end up with a 16:9 image which is smaller than you would have gotten if you had just gone with a 16:9 screen to begin with. So, I have a fairly strong opinion that people should go 16:9 unless their wall forces them to 2.35 (low ceiling height), or their budget allows them to go with an anamorphic lens setup. I know with my 8' ceilings my 161" screen is definitely on the 'large' side, but it still fits and allows a center speaker under the screen, but acoustically transparent screens allow for a very large 16:9 screen to go in place with in-wall speakers which can be pretty cool.
I certainly don't want you to feel silly on any of this as it took me years to really think about what was going on with front projection, but it seems like when it comes to 2.35 setups, it is almost all about marketing instead of anything else. It generates more sales and higher dollars to sell 2.35 CIH as a product. So, it's not for those 'on a budget' so much... but it is possible to do with a reasonable budget.
See, if I were going to do 2.35 because my wall really supported it and I really wanted it, and I was on a tight budget...
I would get the AE8000.
I would probably get, or maybe even build, a set of curtains which would mask off the 2.35 screen down to 1.78:1 when I switched between modes. This way, the screen would always appear properly 'framed' as my setup changed. I know Carada (www.carada.com
) sells a masking system, but something as simple as black curtains could do this for you and work well.
The big thing, that will make you the happiest, IMO, is the AE8000 projector, especially if you are in a proper theater setup with dark walls, ceiling, and carpet as that projector is one of the best mid-level models out there right now. Great blacks, excellent colors, etc.