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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Windy City Cinema Theater Build

What better use for my 3rd post ever than to start a build thread, right? I have been around the forum for many years, soaking up the knowledge and waiting for the day when I would be able to build one of these great rooms. I almost got there 2 years ago, and I had finished all of the rest of my basement (my wife knew I would never finish it if I worked on the theater at all), but I was suddenly forced to relocate for my job and my opportunity vanished. We finally moved into our new house about 6 months ago, which has a space reserved for a dedicated theater. It is not an ideal space, but after reading so many build threads I am not even sure such a thing exists. Everyone seems to have obstacles, and mine will be no different. The room is roughly 20' x 20' x 9', which is great for the width, but not as much depth as I would like. The other challenge is that it is upstairs, since there are no basements in Florida. Even so, I consider myself very lucky to be able to do this at all, so I am going to make the best of the space I have. I will be doing all the work myself, of course. I am a technologist by day, and I have done a lot of construction projects over the years so I have a good foundation of skills and tools to work with. Hopefully, coupling that with all of the great knowledge I have gained, and will continue to gain, from all of you I can make something my family can thoroughly enjoy for years to come.

Here are my main goals for the project, which will ultimately drive the decisions I make along the way.

1. I have 4 young children. This is a space for us to enjoy as a family, which will certainly differ in some ways from an adult focused space. It is also a built in excuse for when I don't make the progress that I should. Funny how that works.

2. Sound proofing is important. I will be trying to do everything I can, within reason, to keep sound in the room. I am resigned to the fact that I won't be watching certain movies at reference level when my children are asleep, but I want it to be as isolated as possible.

3. I want to do everything myself. I don't intend to build my own speakers, but as far as the room goes I won't be contracting anything out. I enjoy doing this type of work in my spare time, and I want the satisfaction that comes with building something with your own hands. Plus, I am afflicted with a certain amount of OCD that would prevent me from having others work in my room. I could probably cure that with therapy, but that money would be better spent on a projector.

4. While budget won't be a primary driver, and I don't have a number in mind to stay within, I will keep my spend to a reasonable amount. I realize that is somewhat subjective, but I would guess I am somewhere in the middle in terms of the rooms I have seen here on AVS. I want a good quality experience, but 30K for a projector isn't for me.

5. Lastly, I want to watch movies. That is why everyone builds these rooms, right?

I don't have everything figured out yet, but I do have some layouts and photos that I will post later tonight or tomorrow. However, I believe I have enough figured out to move forward with construction of the room which I started recently. Mainly, this is demolition of the current space right now. I had to remove all of the existing drywall and sub-floor and start from scratch. I am pretty sure some of my neighbors think I am crazy for demolishing a room in a brand new house, but whatever. I begged the builder to leave it unfinished, but they were not able to do it. At this point, I have removed everything but the ceiling and I am halfway done putting the floor back in place after filling with pink fluffy goodness. I also had to replace a bunch of recessed lights for the room below as the ones they put in were non-IC rated. Figures.

I will post my current progress along with photos and current plans in another post. Hopefully, later tonight. Until then, thanks to all of you that have chronicled your builds over the past several years. I would never have been able to start this without that knowledge. Hopefully, my thread can serve someone else the way so many others did for me. Still so much to figure out along the way, but let the fun begin!
 

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Awesome. Can't wait to see it develop. I'm jealous of your dimensions, so it's all relative. :) Since you're planning on soundproofing where possible, are you going to dampen the floor with green glue and two layers (at least) of subfloor?

Best of luck through the process...you'll have fun (but there will be many times you just want it done).
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Awesome. Can't wait to see it develop. I'm jealous of your dimensions, so it's all relative. :) Since you're planning on soundproofing where possible, are you going to dampen the floor with green glue and two layers (at least) of subfloor?

Best of luck through the process...you'll have fun (but there will be many times you just want it done).
The short answer to the floor question is yes. More specifically, here is what I have planned for soundproofing overall.

  • Double Stud Walls all around
  • 2 layers of 5/8" drywall with GG on walls
  • Clips and Hat Channel for ceiling along with 2 layers of 5/8" drywall and GG
  • On top of the sub-floor, I will add Serenity Mat and then 2 additional layers of sub-floor with GG
  • Stacked single doors in the entry (Still deciding if I want to do this or not)
  • All wiring and HVAC will be in the soffit, which will be built after the room is sealed

All of that came from discussions with Ted at Soundproofing Company, where I ordered all of the materials from. If anyone sees any glaring holes in that plan, or room for improvement, I am always open to suggestions. Particularly when it comes to the door as I don't love that plan at the moment. I need to figure it out pretty quick though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
As promised, here are some photos of the room before I started, and one that shows the current state. As I said, I have removed all of the drywall on the walls, and about half of the original floor. I am purposely waiting to deal with the ceiling until I have a large chunk of time. I don't want to leave that room open to the attic space for a long period of time, so I need to be completely prepared to do that work when I start. I am also attaching a basic plan for the layout of the room. I would love some input on what I have, but there are a few limitations to work within. First, the location of the door isn't really flexible. The wall where the screen is currently is an exterior wall, and on one side is my daughters room and on the other side is a mechanical room. The hallway is really the only place to enter the room. It could potentially move a little left to right, but that's about it. I am currently planning on taking a small chunk of the hallway out to house my equipment rack. That is the only place I could go outside the existing room, and I didn't want to use the room space if I could avoid it. I wish I could find a way to do 2 rows of seats, but unless someone sees something that I don't it just isn't possible. With 4 kids I really wanted everyone to have their own seat, but as of yet I have not been able to come up with a layout where that is possible. Giving up the AT screen might help there, but that is something I really want to have. If anyone has any ideas, thoughts, or whatever please share.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Floor should be done in the next day or two, and I am now planning my materials to frame the internal walls and run the electrical. I plan to have minimal penetrations in the walls for electrical by putting the outlets in the columns like most people do. The part my brain is struggling with at the moment is the switch boxes just inside the door. How did you guys figure out exactly what depth to mount those at? I have had issues in past projects where the boxes weren't at quite the right depth, and then the outlets end up looking sketchy when you are done. I want to be 100% certain that doesn't happen here. Is there some way to do it such that I have some flexibility when I get to the finishing stage? I am not 100% certain what the depth of my acoustic panels will be in that area yet, so I am hoping I can figure out a way to make it flexible. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.

I will try to post some pics of the final floor work for those that are interested. I can say that prying up sub-floor that was screwed, nailed, and glued is not a pleasant way to spend an evening.
 

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Overflow Seating

I wish I could find a way to do 2 rows of seats, but unless someone sees something that I don't it just isn't possible. With 4 kids I really wanted everyone to have their own seat, but as of yet I have not been able to come up with a layout where that is possible.
Our room is technically not "finished", but we're using it. We have two rows of three seats, but sometimes that isn't enough. We'll eventually have bar seating behind the second row, but we accommodate overflow seating using a Lovesac Supersac we bought second hand. It's been known to accommodate four kids and an English Mastiff all at once, although in the spirit of full disclosure, the dog doesn't really care about watching films.

Here's a link to the product page fyi: http://www.lovesac.com/sacs/supersac.html

I imagine this thing may act as sound absorption, but we've never done any measurements.

Good luck with your build!

Kevin
 

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Floor should be done in the next day or two, and I am now planning my materials to frame the internal walls and run the electrical. I plan to have minimal penetrations in the walls for electrical by putting the outlets in the columns like most people do. The part my brain is struggling with at the moment is the switch boxes just inside the door. How did you guys figure out exactly what depth to mount those at? I have had issues in past projects where the boxes weren't at quite the right depth, and then the outlets end up looking sketchy when you are done. I want to be 100% certain that doesn't happen here. Is there some way to do it such that I have some flexibility when I get to the finishing stage? I am not 100% certain what the depth of my acoustic panels will be in that area yet, so I am hoping I can figure out a way to make it flexible. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.

I will try to post some pics of the final floor work for those that are interested. I can say that prying up sub-floor that was screwed, nailed, and glued is not a pleasant way to spend an evening.
A couple options to handle the switches just inside the door:
1) Adjustable depth box
2) Build a backer box and defer the decision on how deep to place the box until you know your panel depth.
3) Combine 1 and 2
4) Figure out your panel depth now

I went with #1 and #2 . Adjustable depth switch boxes in an MDF backer box:




Frame built to fit around the electrical boxes:




Covered fabric frame around the boxes:



Adjustable boxes adjusted to be flush with fabric frame:
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
A couple options to handle the switches just inside the door:
1) Adjustable depth box
2) Build a backer box and defer the decision on how deep to place the box until you know your panel depth.
3) Combine 1 and 2
4) Figure out your panel depth now

I went with #1 and #2 . Adjustable depth switch boxes in an MDF backer box:




Frame built to fit around the electrical boxes:




Covered fabric frame around the boxes:



Adjustable boxes adjusted to be flush with fabric frame:
Thanks for the info on the switch boxes. That was helpful, and allowed me to complete the backer boxes and still have some flexibility for acoustical treatment in the end. I am clearly not great about updating my thread, so I need to get better at that quick. I am currently just about to start on the 2nd layer of drywall. I had a few days off, so I put them to good use and spent 14-16 hours a day in the theater for 5 straight days. I also have some good pictures of the room after the entire drywall ceiling fell down on top of me, but that will have to wait until I am at home. I can laugh about it now.

For the moment, I am struggling with the the devils triangle of seating capacity, screen size, and viewing distance/angle and was hoping to get some thoughts from those that have experience. As I mentioned earlier, I have 4 young kids (2 thru 9) so having a seat for the whole family is a priority. I can't even imagine the fights that will ensue if everyone does not have the same kind of chair. My head hurts just thinking about it. Anyway, my original design had 4 theater recliners with bar seating behind and I have come to realize that just won't fly with the family. I finally realized that if I create a row of 6 using 3 love seats I can actually fit it in a single row. So, I think that is going to be my new plan as I just couldn't find a good way to get 2 usable rows given the restrictions of my room. Now, I am struggling with whether I should keep the bar seating at all, or just move the single row back to get a better viewing angle and possibly increase the screen size. My room is wide, about 19 ft after soundproofing, so I want to make sure the screen is large enough so that it isn't dwarfed by the room. At the same time, I don't want it so large that it is uncomfortable. How often do people use those extra seats for guests in reality? In theory they are nice to have, but I am not sure if I would need more than 6 seats very often. Is it worth a slightly smaller screen or a less than ideal viewing angle to have 6 more seats at the bar?

The last piece to that puzzle is whether to go AT for the screen or not? With only 19 ft of depth, sacrificing 2 feet to a false wall is tough. I really like the look of the AT screen, and the fact that it hides everything. I also think it just has a "cool" factor. But will that wear off in the short term and lead to regret at the sacrifice of screen size and/or viewing angle? Other than having to go with a horizontal center channel, and having to expose my speakers, there really isn't much downside to go with a normal non-AT screen that I can see. I am starting to feel like an AT screen is just a luxury that I should compromise on in favor of the extra space, but I am happy to listen to anyone that wants to talk me out of it.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts, and I will try to satisfy the picture cravings tonight.
 

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Have you considered a second row of theater style chairs? Something like this



They're not recliners, but they save a lot of space and are still nice and comfy. You could do reclining theater seats on the front row, and then these on the back. You would need a riser. Could you build a riser and have the step up outside the room?

Also, have you considered moving the surrounds forward of the seats? There are quite a few designers that recommend that.

EDIT: Have you considered putting your light switches in the column next to the door? I'm not sure how far away that is from your drawing, but it's a thought.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
So, as promised, some photos of my ceiling cave in. I had purposely not torn out the ceiling because I wasn't sure how I was going to handle all of the blown-in insulation. On top of that, I wanted to leave the attic exposed for the shortest possible time since I live in Florida and it is already hot down here. I did want to get the new walls up though, so my plan was to cut out about 6 inches around the edges of the ceiling. That would give me enough room to attach the clips to the joists/walls and get all the new walls built. That way, when I took the ceiling down I would just have to put up clips and track and be ready for drywall. Everything was going fine until I got to the first corner. I had cut a line about 6 inches out with my RotoZip, and I was just ripping out the part near the wall. When I pulled on it near the corner, it seemed like I had not gotten all the way through the drywall with my saw. So, of course, I pulled harder. When I did, the whole first sheet started coming down, and then the next, and the next, like dominoes. In a matter of about 5 seconds, the entire ceiling save one sheet had fallen on me. It wasn't funny at the time, but luckily I got off the ladder quick and got my hands up to prevent injury.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
And here are some photos of my progress thus far. I completed the new walls inside the room, ran the electricity, HVAC, and low voltage wiring, and insulated the walls. Most of the wiring will take place within the room once it is sealed, so the wiring wasn't too complicated. I have a large mess at the switch box to sort out, but it is all labeled so there is no rush since none of the lights are in yet. I also built and hung some backer boxes for future potential Atmos speakers. I am not sure if/when I will use them, but I figured now was the time to do it. If I want them, they are there. If not, it was only a few hours effort lost. Finally, I put up the clips and channel for the ceiling. Never having done that before, I won't discuss how many mistakes I made. I should have gotten a laser level, but the big box didn't have one I wanted and I didn't want to wait. It turned out fine when I was done, but I did a lot of it multiple times to get there.

A quick tip for anyone trying to mount large backer boxes in the ceiling. I found that it was really simple to get the box in perfect position by using the drywall lift. That allowed me to easily adjust it, plus be certain it would end up exactly even with the drywall like I wanted. If not for that lift, I have no clue how I would have managed it. Especially by myself.

Once I had everything in the walls that I needed, I started doing the drywall. Thankfully I was able to get the drywall company to bring it all upstairs for me. I have done a fair amount of drywall work over the years, but never with 5/8" drywall. That stuff is really heavy. I estimated 68 sheets to do 2 layers, and there was no way I was getting that upstairs alone, or with my wife for that matter. Even with delivery and taking it upstairs it still ended up being cheaper than buying it at HD, so I was happy about that.

At this point I am about 95% done with the first layer. I still have the small pieces at the top of the walls, and the section right by the door. I didn't have my backer box for the switch done, so I couldn't finish that part of the wall. I have since built that, and I will install it this weekend along with the remainder of the first layer of drywall. I also hope to get all the seams caulked this weekend as well. If I am lucky, maybe some of the 2nd layer will start going up. As a rule though, I am not very lucky.
 

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..... If I am lucky,..... As a rule though, I am not very lucky.
This should be on a T-shirt.

With four kids, I'm impressed that you are making progress this quickly! I've only got two, and I can never find time to work in my theater :confused:
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Also, have you considered moving the surrounds forward of the seats? There are quite a few designers that recommend that.

EDIT: Have you considered putting your light switches in the column next to the door? I'm not sure how far away that is from your drawing, but it's a thought.
I had not considered either of those things. I haven't seen anyone put their speakers in front of their seats, but maybe I just wan't paying attention. Are there any examples you can think of where they have done that?

The switch in the column actually isn't a bad idea either. It isn't as close to the door as I would like, but that might not matter to be honest. I am putting a contact in the door and the lights will go on automatically when I come into the theater and it is not in use.

Both excellent suggestions, thanks.
 

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Going from memory, I believe dlbeck's Savoy theater and BrolicBeast's theaters both use that layout as well as mine. It is recommended by Toole and the ITU standard uses it as well for 7.1 IIRC, and Nyal recommends this layout for his spaces (Nyal designed all three of the spaces I've mentioned).

Another that comes to mind is Roger Dressler's space, but I'd have to search for it to be sure.

Full disclosure, not all the big name designers use that layout. Dennis Erskine for example uses the typical Dobly and THX layout with the sides at 90 or little behind.

EDIT: Here's a quick reference from Nyal's site :)
 

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So you are completely blocking access to the two windows? Will that cause any issues for future building maintenance? Just curious, and I certainly understand not leaving them open to the room. :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
So you are completely blocking access to the two windows? Will that cause any issues for future building maintenance? Just curious, and I certainly understand not leaving them open to the room. :D
Fair question, and one I did think about. Here is the way I look at it. It is a second floor window just above my screen enclosure in the back. It would be very difficult for something to accidentally break those windows because they just aren't easily accessible. The windows don't open, so there should not be any leaks. It is also a brand new house. I actually considered removing them completely when we built it, but I thought the outside of the house looked odd without them. Lastly, I can access it from outside if anything actually does happen. For example, I do have to caulk the outside every so often. In a nutshell, I didn't see any justification for leaving access to it. I am sure others might see it differently, but that was my thinking.

Note, I did put a fancy window film with white backing on the window before I covered it, so from the outside it looks like we just have some fancy curtains that are closed. Unless you see the room, you will never know that I covered them. Even then, you might not realize it.
 
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