When Kevin Childs (ChldsPlay) moved into his future wife’s house in Olathe, KS, the semi-finished basement beckoned him with the siren’s song of a dedicated home theater. “When I first saw it, all I could think of was the potential for a great home-theater setup. Fortunately, she gave me permission to do whatever I wanted with the basement.” No wonder he married her!
“Originally, I thought to keep things simple to limit the budget. Get a decent but inexpensive projector, same for the screen and speakers, throw in some nice seats, and that would be about it. The most complicated thing I thought might be building a wall or throwing up a curtain to block some light.” But then, he started doing research on AVS Forum—and simplicity went out the window!
“My primary goal was to bring the theater experience into my home. I knew I wanted an acoustically transparent screen; having dialog come from where the characters are on the screen was a priority for me, but I wasn’t sure if the space would allow for it without using in-wall speakers. I also intended to do at least a 7.1 system, which is what I had previously, and I certainly didn’t want to downgrade from there. Around the time I started doing my research, Dolby Atmos for the home was being discussed, so I made it a priority to make sure that I would be set up to easily integrate Atmos once it became available.
“Due to budget constraints and a fairly low ceiling, I did not make sound isolation a priority. This hasn’t been an issue so far; when the theater is in use, everyone in the house is usually in there.
“Finally, I was somewhat particular about the look of the room. I do not like the old-style theater look at all; I prefer simple and streamlined. I also had certain colors I was more interested in, not to mention the need to go dark.”
Kevin drew up some layouts on his own using a program called SweetHome 3D, but the design went through some significant modifications. “After visiting a local AV installer’s store, I latched onto the idea of having a bar behind the seating area. However, due to the dimensions of the available space, some of my early ideas were not possible. I went from two rows of seats with a bar in the back to two rows with a bar off to the side, before ultimately settling on just having the two rows with a separate snack room.”
After consulting home-theater installers in his area, Kevin was not inspired with confidence in them. “Based on my research, I knew that a lot of the things they said were wrong, and those that weren’t obviously blowing smoke didn’t come across as being too knowledgeable. They seemed less interested in what I wanted than in what they wanted to sell me.” So he ended up calling on AVS Forum member Nyal Mellor of Acoustic Frontiers, who did the final layout and acoustic design.
Kevin also hired his then-girlfriend’s cousin, who offered them a killer deal to do the framing, drywall, electrical work, and painting. “I helped where I could, tearing down the existing ceiling and taking up the existing floor. I also applied drywall with Green Glue between the floor joists to deaden sound from dogs walking above. I helped with the electrical and ran all of the wiring for the equipment. I also carried all the sand down and filled up the stage. Finally, I installed all the acoustic treatments and built the wall of insulation behind the screen.” He also contracted out the HVAC ducting and carpeting.
“One of the biggest challenges was the depth of the acoustic treatments. For example, the door to the snack room has some treatment on it, which adds four inches to the door thickness. To keep the treatment in line with the design, the door opens from the theater room into the snack room, and the door frame is recessed on the snack-room side. To accomplish this, the hinges had to be recessed into the frame, and the door only opens about 95 degrees. The only other option would have been to open the door into the theater with custom hinges, which would have been extremely expensive.
“The depth of the panels on the door also made it unrealistic to have a functioning door knob. So we used spring hinges to get the door to close. I considered a door closer, but with the door being recessed on the side it swings into, standard installation methods were not going to work. The door closes fairly well, but it isn’t as tight as I would like it. This is the one thing I am still trying to find a more permanent solution for.”
Fortunately, Nyal was able to use the equipment Kevin already had, including JTR Noesis 228 speakers for the front LCRs behind the screen, four Klipsch Pro Cinema KPT-8000Ms for the side and rear surrounds in angled pilasters, and two JTR Passive Captivator Pro subwoofers on either side of the screen behind black masking material. Recently, he added four Niles DS8HD in-ceiling speakers for the Atmos overheads, and he swapped out his Onkyo TX-SR608 AV receiver for a Yamaha RX-A3050 with Atmos capabilities. An AudioSource AMP100VS amp powers two of the overhead speakers, while a Crown XLS 5000 drives the two subs.
The front JTR Noesis 228 LCR speakers are mounted behind the screen and surrounded by pink fluffy, while the JTR Passive Captivator subs are on the floor in the front corners behind acoustically transparent black cloth.
When all was said and done, the total cost came to about $45,000. “Our budget was $40,000, and we really came in at about $39,000, but I splurged on a few items and paid for them with funds outside what we had budgeted.” Of course, the friends-and-family discount offered by his wife’s cousin helped a lot, along with all the DIY work Kevin did.
I asked Kevin where the name Hodor Theater came from. “I am a big fan of Game of Thrones—and an even bigger fan of the books—and as any other fan can attest, Hodor can mean pretty much anything. So, it’s sort of a catch-all and a reference to something I’m a big fan of.”
Once the theater was complete, Kevin and his bride-to-be christened it by watching a movie together. “It was Jack and Jill, an Adam Sandler movie we had discussed on our first date. She said we should watch it together, much to my chagrin—I had been saying how bad it was! We hadn’t spoken about it since that day, and I surprised her with it in the new theater. She cried as soon as she saw the title. After the movie, I proposed, and through her tears, she accepted.” Now that’s what I call a happy ending!
For much more detail about how Kevin’s home theater came together, check out the build thread here.
If you’d like your home theater considered for HT of the Month, PM me with the details and a link to your build thread if available.
Dune HD Smart D1 Media Player (four 4 TB hard drives)
Sony PlayStation 4 game console/Blu-ray player
Microsoft Xbox One game console/Blu-ray player
DirecTV satellite receiver
Other HDMI devices (HDMI input in riser)
Yamaha RX-A3050 AV receiver
AudioSource AMP100VS power amp (powers 2 overhead speakers)
Crown XLS 5000 power amp (powers subs)
Lumagen Radiance XS-3D
Panasonic PT-AE8000U (no anamorphic lens; zoom and processing through Lumagen for various aspect ratios)
Seymour AV Center Stage XD (120″ wide, 2.35:1, 1.0 gain, woven acoustically transparent, AT masking panels for 16:9 content)
JTR Noesis 228 (3, LCR)
Klipsch Pro Cinema KPT-8000M (4, side/rear surrounds)
Niles DS8HD (4, overhead)
JTR Passive Captivator Pro subwoofers (2)
Monoprice 12-gauge speaker cables
Monoprice Redmere HDMI (2 runs for projector and riser input)
Whatever HDMI cables I had around for all the connections in the equipment rack
HDMI, VGA, USB, Ethernet cables to the riser
Insteon switches/outlets for lights via ISY
ISY and other components controlled from 8″ Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 with iRule
APC J25B power conditioner with battery backup
Palliser Blade powered recliners (6)
Before fabric panels and screen wall: 22’8″ x 15′
Useable space after fabric panels and screen wall: 20′ x 14’2″
Height: 7’7″, 6’7″ under lower soffit