My home theater may forever be a work in progress. Although I’ve come a long way since the early days of cramming a projection screen and 5.1 sound system into the spare bedroom of a small apartment, I still feel like the theater room may never be finished. I often find myself thinking of ways to tweak the configuration or add new equipment. As such, the following photo tour of the space may not be its end state. However, as I write this, the system has remained relatively stable for a while.
When the wife and I went shopping for houses back in late 2012, one of my top priorities was a good basement area that could be renovated into a home theater. The process of actually doing that was long, expensive, and filled with setbacks. Thankfully, I think the end result turned out very well.
The room actually has some interesting history. The former owner, who was deceased when we purchased from her estate, had ties to the entertainment industry and was allegedly the mistress of a legendary director from the Golden Age of Hollywood. I’ve been told that said filmmaker spent considerable time in the basement rec room, smoking cigars and drinking liquor. I was also shown photos of a very famous pack of other superstar celebrities lounging on a couch in the room where I’m typing these words right now.
Despite that backstory, the basement as it existed at the time was simply not useable for my purposes without extensive work. The space was trapped in a tacky 1950s decor, with cheap wood paneling on the walls and a hideous green tile floor. I had to strip the entire area down to the studs and hire a contractor to build it back up again with soundproofing and double-thick drywall. The entrance doorway was also too short for me to walk through without ducking, and that had to be addressed.
In its current state, the room serves multiple purposes. The front half is a dedicated theater, while the back acts as my home office. (Between the two, I spent almost the entirety of the 2020 quarantine stuck in a basement with no windows.) Carefully arranged throughout, the space also houses my physical media movie collection and two other passions: vintage toys from my childhood and memorabilia related to my favorite film. I’ve tried my best to squeeze everything in without looking overly cluttered, though my wife may have different opinions about how successful I’ve been at that.
I have chosen to call the room the Cinema Zyberdiso, which ought to be a pretty obvious play on the widely beloved, Oscar-winning 1988 Italian film Cinema Paradiso. Sadly, as it turns out, most people tend to misread the name as Zyber Disco, to my endless frustration.
Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, the entryway to the home theater first opens onto a small vestibule with another door behind it. This pseudo-airlock is one of the methods I employ to isolate sound from the rest of the house.
The narrow width of the hallway makes taking photographs difficult. Seen from the reverse angle (inside the theater room looking out), here is my first movie shelf.
This one holds SteelBooks, Digibooks, box sets, and other discs in special or irregular packaging. I have a lot of those.
Work and Play
Stepping into the room itself, the first thing to catch your eye will likely be my toy collection, which is primarily focused on vintage G.I.Joe action figures from the 1980s.
Against the back wall are my office desk and a couple more movie shelves, one of which is dedicated to Blu-rays from the Criterion Collection.
On the right side of the room is an alcove with a little shrine devoted to my favorite movie, David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of Dune. (Yes, I’m well aware that everybody else hates that movie. We’ll get into that at another time.) Over the years, I’ve collected quite an assortment of tie-in merchandise, including toys, games, coloring books, party favors, View-Master reels, and even bed sheets, among other things all totally inappropriate to the content of the film. For a brief moment, the studio really thought it had the next Star Wars on its hands, but the actual product is decidedly not child-friendly. I find the contradictions fascinating.
I own copies of the movie from around the world on video formats from the commonplace (VHS, DVD, Blu-ray) to some so obscure I’ll never be able to play them (VHD, DIVX).
Laserdisc was the video format that ignited my obsession with home theater. Of course, I have multiple copies of Dune on that as well. Although I haven’t tried to watch any disc on the format in ages (and can’t imagine any of them would hold up well to current video standards), I still have a deep sentimental attachment to what’s left of my collection.
Finally, the Actual Home Theater
At long last, moving to the front of the room reveals the home theater itself. My primary display is a JVC DLA-NX7 4K Ultra HD projector shining onto a Stewart StudioTek 130 screen in 2.35:1 Constant Image Height format.
When I designed the room, it was intended as a two-person home theater for myself and my wife. This was perhaps a little short-sighted, as we now have two kids to squeeze in as well. They’re still at a young enough age that they can sit on our laps for now, but the seating accommodations will need to be re-evaluated before too long.
My sound system is best described as overkill. I’ve jury-rigged an elaborate Dolby Atmos 9.1.7 speaker configuration that requires not one but four A/V receivers running in tandem to operate. The details of that are far too convoluted to explain in this post. I’ll revisit that topic later.
Other hardware includes:
- Denon AVR-X8500H Dolby Atmos A/V receiver
- Marantz SR4400 A/V receivers (2)
- Marantz NR1504 A/V receiver
- Emotiva UPA-200 amplifier
- Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray player
- Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD player
- Roku Premiere+ 4K HDR video streamer
- NVIDIA Shield 4K HDR video streamer
- Comcast Xfinity X1 DVR
- Pioneer HLD-X9 Laserdisc player
I imagine that most people interested in home theater dream of the so-called turnkey solution – where they can pay a certain amount of money, hire contractors and installers to build exactly what they want, and one day walk into a finished product they are completely happy with and never have to worry about again. If you’re wealthy enough, that may even be an attainable goal.
My home theater was decidedly not that. It was built and upgraded piece by piece, slowly over time. While I did indeed have contractors, electricians, and other laborers build the physical space, I selected, purchased, and installed every piece of electronics in the place myself. I’ve also removed, replaced, tweaked, and re-configured almost all of them multiple times over since the room was first supposedly finished. I fully expect more changes in the future. In fact, I’m already pondering a plan to add even more speakers if possible. In my opinion, you can never have enough.
One thought on “A Walkthrough Tour of the Cinema Zyberdiso”
Excellent space with a great story attached! I’m Ben23 over on AVSForum btw. I also just joined Letterboxd (UncleBen23) and started following you there as well.
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