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203 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone,

Been a member here for a number of years, but spend more time reading than posting.

A dedicated home theater has been in the back of my mind for nearly 20 years. After seeing my first one so many years ago it had been a dream that has finally come true. Find it hard to believe I have reached a point in my life where I was able to make it happen. I give a lot of thanks to everyone on this forum for the unlimited amount of information, ideas and inspiration.

I built my theater out of a picture I had in my head. Virtually nothing was put on paper, except for some drawings for my wood working guy and to help explain some construction items when my father helped on a few things. The end result far exceeded my expectations and the vision of what it would look like. I did as much as I could on my own. A few times I would get stuck and require another set of experienced hands. Thankfully I have a number of friends who were experienced in the areas I needed help in.

This has been the most difficult and complicated thing I have ever done. It would have been easier for me to remove the engine from my motorcycle, tear it completely down and put it back together.

I couldn’t think of a decent name, so I came up with the “Kung-Fu Shark Theater” (KFS). The name comes from the two paint colors I used, “Kung-Fu” red for the theater and “Shark” for the lobby/entry. Both are Miller Paint colors. Their Evolution line of paint is wonderful to work with and well worth the cost.

Let’s start at the beginning….

Over a year ago I bought a house. It is actually my grandmother’s house. I have many memories of being in the house as a kid and when she reached an age where it was not a good idea for her to be in it alone, she decided to move into a retirement community. She is still self-sufficient and sharp as a tack but getting quite frail since she is pushing 90.

The house was built in 1946 and has had very little done to it over the years as far as upgrading. My grandfather was as cheap as they come and wouldn’t spend a dime on anything. One example is when he didn’t want to spend $2 to fix a drain. So he used a piece of radiator hose, some clamps and a ton of silicone to make the repair. That’s only one of the many “WTF?” things I’ve run into. I guess you could say that mindset and his hording could be called “Depression Era mentality”.

So you have a couple of rooms in the basement that need some serious updating. They were known to everyone as the “Pool” and “Ping Pong” rooms. As you can likely guess aptly named for their uses. I have misplaced a number of photos so you’ll have to forgive me for a rather large jump in construction pictures.

Let’s start with the Pool room. The mess you see is 99.99% of my grandmother’s stuff. The pool table went to my cousin and I can’t even begin to count the number of games I’ve played on it over the years. The space under the windows had a corner booth bench (from an old restaurant) with some lovely brown carpet glued on the wall. The windows leaked some time ago and the only thing holding the plaster up was the carpet.

Clear out all the junk and box up all the books. I didn’t realize just how many books were there until I started boxing them up. My aunt hired a company to come and move the table. Funny thing it just so happened to be the same company that installed in the early 1970’s.

I did not envy them. Having to carry a three piece slate table up the stairs did not look like fun. At least it wasn’t a once piece table.

With the pool table gone, time to get rid of the lovely pine paneling.


203 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
You then of course install sheetrock. Tape, mud and redo the heavy knock down texture. Extend the wall beyond the fireplace for your custom made, built in shelving to hold your media and equipment. Leaving just enough room for the door to clear and open into its own pocket. Plus float the areas under the windows with quick drying mud to fill in the missing plaster. Still took a couple of days for everything to dry on the first coat.

Time to test your seating and get an idea of how they are going to fit in the room. Notice the lovely floor tile, stairs and rug in the other room.

Screen size testing and paint chips..

Go overkill on your screen wall and prime the room. For the front windows I sandwiched foam between the glass and plywood that I screwed into the frame. This was to prevent the single pane glass from making noise under bass loads. For the window on the left I removed just the glass and frame and made a 1-1/2” thick plug that I screwed into the casing. The unpainted wood frames you see behind the screen wall come into play later…

Cut a hole in the back wall for your projector. Thankfully I bought a 3 channel Grafix Eye since there was just enough room to stuff a three gang masonry box in the wall. It actually needed a little help with a hammer to fit.

Jump forward quite a bit since you can’t find the photos you took…

After installing lights, painting the room, run cabling, cover front wall with acoustical insulation, install base, build the riser, etc, etc, etc you are ready for carpet. I was ready to pay someone to install all the carpet but my father pitched a fit and said it was “too expensive” so he did it. 25+ years of installing floor covering makes one an expert, at the expense of your knees. I explained I didn’t mind paying someone to do it because of his knees (plus he’s almost 70) but he wouldn’t have it any other way. I tried to talk him into letting me kick everything in but he always scoffed at the suggestion. Watching him kick everything in put knots in my stomach.. by the end of the day his knees were insanely swollen.. He never complained and was giddy with excitement over how well everything was coming out. This was a far cry from his thoughts when I started this adventure.

Install your seats, screen, paint all the trim and fireplace, etc, etc, etc and this is what you are left with…

But.. you’ve got an adjacent room (former Ping Pong) that needs some help as well. Why not turn it into a lobby/entry room?

Frame up the foundation wall, sheetrock, paint, texture, etc…

This was nearly 10 months of work, with the last 4 months working just about every night after work (usually until almost 11pm) and every weekend.

203 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The best part of the entire project was yet to come.

My family kept this a secret from my grandmother the entire time. Once I was ready to unveil it to everyone I set a date and called her to say she needs to come over for dinner and a movie. My parents, grandmother and one of my aunts (and uncle) came over. I made my grandmothers favorite dish for dinner. She is accustomed to watching movies in the living room on my TV. We all were smirking at each other knowing what was coming up. Grandma was totally in the dark.

After dinner everyone was sitting around the table chatting. I received nods from everyone saying they were ready to shock grandma. I posed the question if everyone is ready for a movie. With everyone in agreement grandma gets up from the table and starts to walk into the living room. I stop her and say “follow me…”. I start to escort her to the stairs and she asks “are we going downstairs to watch a movie?”. Yes grandma, I watch movies downstairs now. She had a rather puzzled look on her face. Reaching the top of the now carpeted stairs was the first “wow” out of her. Making her way down into the former Ping Pong room she said “oh my god”. The door to the Pool room was closed.

Once the rest of the family made it down stairs I told my grandmother she needed to go into the Pool room. She gave me a “what for?” look. I smiled and motioned to the door. She walked over and opened the door, took a few steps in and stopped. I then said to her “which isn’t really the Pool room anymore.. It is now the movie theater”. She was in complete shock and all that came out of her was “WOW.. Oh my god”…about 10 times..

We got her sat down and once everyone else got their popcorn and such, I started everything with some trailers. My father and aunt sat next to their mother and after the first trailer (Brave) my father leaned over and said “Mom. Remember you are sitting in the Pool Room!”. The usual “Oh my god, WOW” was all she could think of to say.. She sat motionless in her chair the entire time, completely mesmerized by everything. The only other time I had seen her do this was when watching “Tangled” on my TV.

First movie shown was “How To Train Your Dragon”.

With the credits rolling, everyone got up and they all were in a bit of shock. My grandmother told me she was so blown away she couldn’t get out of her chair. I sat down next to her and asked if she approved of the changes. She whole heartily approved of what I had done and when I asked if she wanted to come over to watch another movie and what she wanted to see “ANYTHING!” was her response.

There has been a fairly steady stream of friends coming over to see what I had created. Everyone (in their own words) has said they came over with high expatiations only to have them completely obliterated. Given the somewhat lengthy build time I received a number of questions as to why it was taking me so long. Once they were able to see and experience the finished product they fully understood “why”.

The build was of course without it’s high and low points, mistakes and such. Lots of frustrations and challenges dealing with an already finished room. There were at least some positives on my side. I sometimes wonder if I had removed all the plaster and plaster board then started from just stud walls if things would have been easier. That route would have likely been easier in some areas, but presented more challenges as well.

Still have a few small things to take care of but it is nice to be able to relax and not stress on getting it finished up. Once I hit the downhill side of the build I set a reasonable date for opening and kept myself on track to reach that goal.

The room dimensions are roughly 13’x19’ with a 7 foot high ceiling. The riser is just under 12 inches tall. I am 6 feet tall so I just clear the ceiling. Wall color in the theater is as I mentioned earlier “Kung-Fu” from Miller Paint. The ceiling is actually a very dark brown called “Evermore” from Miller Paint as well. The idea for using a brown instead of black came from a longtime friend who use to design and build high end HT’s during the 1990’s and into 2002 or so before the market dropped out. They found that using Black on a lower ceiling made it feel like the room was closing in on you, whereas when you used a dark Brown the color difference was just enough to make it not feel so confined. The color is dark enough that light reflections are not an issue.

The carpet was found at a local carpet warehouse on closeout for less than $4/yard. I have no idea who made it, but it is called “Stardust”. It is black with ribbons of color threaded through it. It was less than $350 to carpet both rooms and the stairs (carpet only). I found brand new rolls of 8lb pad on Craigslist for $60/roll. Half the price of any carpet place I called.

Seating was found on Craigslist as well and is in excellent condition. The previous owner had them completely rebuilt and recovered. He was upgrading to recliners so I got them at an excellent price. I may at some point swap out the front row for recliners, but the seats are actually very, very comfortable. Perhaps I’ll make some small ottomans… I already have a request for bean bag chairs since some want to sit on the floor, closer to the screen. Front row of seats is 10 feet back from the screen and the back row is at 14 feet. The front row is a hair too close and it has been a 50/50 split so far as to who likes being close and who likes being a little further back.

So.. what do I have in the room equipment wise?

JVC RS-40 Projector

110” 1.78:1 Carada BW in Criterion frame

Onkyo TX-NR1010 (running side and back surrounds)

5ch Sony TA-N9000ES amp bridged to 200x200 watts for the left and right, with 1ch at 120w for center speaker

Oppo 93

Darbee Darblet

Polk RTi-A7 towers for Left and Right (Upgraded crossovers with Clarity Caps and Mills Resistors)

Polk CSi-A6 Center Channel (Upgraded crossover with Clarity Caps and Mills Resistors)

Polk RTi-A4 di/bi pole surrounds

Polk RTi-4 for back surrounds

Dual SVS PC-12NSD subs. Each sitting on an Auralex SubDude

Belkin PF-60 power conditioner

Logitech Harmony 1100 remote

3 zone Lutron Grafik RA dimmer

Thought there might be a question or two about the fireplace. It looks to have been wood burning at one point but I’m not 100% sure. What is in there now is a late 1920’s to 1930’s gas heater. It works perfectly and warms the room quite nicely. I need a couple of new radiants, which amazing enough I can still get.

Totally silent and looks really nice in the dark with the blue flame and the orange glow of the radiants.

So that’s my theater build. Went over budget a little but in the end the total cost for everything is a fraction of what I would have had to spend if I had to hire everything out. It’s somewhat strange to come home from work and not go down and work in the theater. I decided to take a month off and just relax. After that I have to finish up some other things to prepare for my sister and her family coming to visit in July.

I’ll dig up a few pictures to show how the walls and ceilings are constructed throughout the house and post them later. It is rather interesting and creates its own set of challenges.

Thanks for looking!

1,224 Posts
Great story and a very nice room. Well done.

272 Posts
What a great story! You did a beautiful job too.

Premium Member
666 Posts
Congrats! Yeah its all about family..thanks for sharing!
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