Is it design, technology, the image, the sound? What’s most important? A question to be asked but for a very different reason than is typical. Not to demand a choice, such as audio versus image, acoustics or equipment or aesthetics versus performance. The question is provocative. To provoke insight, raise awareness and inspire introspection. Because, ultimately, what matters most is what matters most to our client.
Are we asking too much? Satisfied owners of private cinemas have the advantage of experience and can offer insight in how their lives have benefitted from cinema ownership. What of those who have not yet had that experience? The traditional source of information from professionals trends toward the technical. Without a personal context it is incomplete and can be misleading.
Some who are considering a private cinema may have friends with a cinema and have witnessed some of the advantages firsthand. Many however have not. This is why The Cinema Connoisseur created Cinema Stories. Cinema Stories tell of the journey taken when families start with the idea that having a private cinema in their home might be nice, embark on that journey and ultimately find that decision has led to great pleasure. The stories relate personal objectives, enough technical detail to be informative and insight from owners and the professional team to paint a complete picture of what it can be like.
No two stories are alike however similarities exist. It is after all, a Cinema Story! For the Kaleidescape we wanted to offer a wide-angle view of select Cinema Stories. A Cinema Story Montage, sharing similarities and individualities alike. May you find the inspiration to write your own Cinema Story!
“To me it’s all about the ability to have these really beautiful, shared experiences. If you watch a great movie together it's a great shared experience.” shares the owner who first contacted Paradise Theater in 2015 when planning his Five Shadows residence in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and upgrading a Media Room in Malibu to complete a cinema story that started long before. He sought a shared experience from the start when he and his father assembled a 2 channel system that the whole family enjoyed. “I think that is why cinema is so interesting to me” he explains, “We used to listen to an album like we were watching a movie, right?”
Looking to create an experience worthy to be shared the owner recognized the advantages offered by the Paradise Theater, Excellence Always process and team approach. That team consisted of Paradise’s own architectural, interior, and CAD designers, acoustical engineers and project managers. He recalls “I had the opportunity at first in Malibu to say, okay, this is something I've always enjoyed, let's do it the right way. Let's do it with engineers.”
That process, developed and continually refined by Paradise Theater involves gathering and synthesizing all conditions, concepts and criteria with a holistic approach that ensures an optimum outcome in any scenario. These engineered designs are then implemented with a team of trusted partners who bring their core expertise to every detail. To assure realization of that Excellence, Always value and promise the entire project is completed under Paradise Theater’s watchful quality assurance.
For many, this contemporary cinema in Malibu would represent the culmination of a successful cinema journey. A destination worthy of a private cinema connoisseur and a room they utilize every day they are in residence. But for the owner, the journey had only begun.
Truly a connoisseur of the finer things, the owner approached every detail of his home in Jackson Hole Wyoming with a discerning eye. The home featured a private cinema from the start, but with space planning prior to meeting Paradise Theater the project was bumping up against some square footage restrictions. The owner’s experience in Malibu however, whetted his appetite for private cinema performance. “I was excited,” the owner explains, “ It's been a long journey, a long quest for me to find a group of partners like [Paradise Theater] to indulge, to get the right acoustic environment constructed.”
Solving those aforementioned space restrictions without compromising performance allowed the Paradise process to shine. Paradise Theater President, Ryan Brown explains, “the PT process takes all the guesswork out of getting the desired results.” Brown credits his team of designers and engineers for creatively conserving vital space. “We needed to balance noise, space, and ventilation without redundant penetrations of the acoustic envelope. Our team pulled off a miracle!” A feat that did not go unnoticed by CLB Architects, Sam Ankeny who relates, “what’s interesting are the layers of separation and isolation, the amount of technology, and the amount of sophistication behind the scenes. What looks simple, is anything but simple.” A fact the owner compares to his 1973 Porsche 911 which has been on Leno's Garage and named one of the top six restored, modern Porsches in the world. The car even features a rare technique reserved for race car conversions. The owner shares “Porsche race people, true connoisseurs, have come to see my car and drive and say there is something really amazing about this car!” He concludes, “there's this unbelievable attention to detail, but then it gets covered up!”
Interior designer Nimmo speaks to the impact of aesthetics saying, “Theaters used to be an event location, an environment elevating to those experiencing an event. They [the family] use it daily.” A high bar was thus set for the team, a design to elevate the audience every time. Pulling it off, says Nimmo, “was possible due to excellent collaboration between Paradise, CLB and, (specialty builder) Fantastic Theaters.” Nimmo concludes, “it really was a collaborative project.” Brown agrees, “It takes everyone’s best. Creativity, attention to detail, integrity of construction, quality assurance. Everyone on the team delivered!”
The owner’s pursuit of excellence ultimately motivated him to “supercharge” both cinemas with a PRO Audio Technology “power plant”. The Wyoming cinema system boasts 58 channels of amplification and just shy of 40,000 watts! “I’ll never forget tuning the theater,” remembers the owner. “We got to 133 DB with zero distortion!” It wasn’t all about playing loud however as PRO’s Paul Hales reports, “The room is almost too quiet! The high frequency drivers are so sensitive, and the room is so quiet that the softest high frequencies can be heard.” Brown adds “It is very satisfying when we conduct our Performance Verification. We test for background noise, acoustic accuracy and ambience. When the results are like this room, it means everyone did a great job!”
The owner shares about the experience in his theater, “It just transports people. Both the video and the audio experience are fantastic. When a person hears the audio in my theater, they haven't heard anything like it before. The video performance is very film-like. Then there is the aesthetic quality. It’s a beautiful design, when people come into the theater, they like being there. It’s aesthetically a very pleasing place.”
I had the opportunity to enjoy a private showing of Five Shadows. The owner, the consummate connoisseur of living well, played the part of an inspired docent, sharing the many singular details of his finely crafted abode. After suitably building my anticipation, I was invited to enter the cinema itself. Hours later, after reveling in and celebrating the aesthetics, sights, sounds, and extensively curated Kaleidescape library I realized our client and treated me to one of his, as he puts it “particularly beautiful, shared experiences.”
Dreams. Vision. Destiny. Twenty years in the making, this cinema story has them all. “We always envisioned that happening.” says the owner. A home was purchased with a space destined for said cinema, but priorities put those plans on hold as musical and myriad other uses kept the vision a distant dream, but one with a destiny. “We always liked having that theater experience. I have two kids in the movie industry now, and probably because we love it so much.”
Twenty years is a long time to keep a dream alive, but the couple began their journey in earnest with Derek Eitel of Roberts Home Audio Video who reports, “They didn’t have specific details, but they had the space and they knew they wanted to do it right. They knew they wanted to do a high-quality room because they were going to use it a lot.” Eitel immediately reached out to trusted partners, Paradise Theater, to help realize that vision. “We like to work with design, engineering and construction partners we trust because we know the client is going to get the highest level of quality that they are looking for in their private theater,” explains Eitel.
The team knew just what to do. Paradise Theater’s Ryan Brown explains. “Every private cinema is a bespoke design to meet a particular client’s vision, but we do follow a highly developed process that assures extraordinary results. Our client’s happiness is never left to chance.” Knowing the couple had little prior private cinema experience, it was important to explore possibilities with the clients to assure everyone was heading in the same direction. That means working with the clients to discover what their dreams mean. It was a team effort starting with demonstrations at Roberts Home AV where the couple experienced various levels of performance and provided feedback to the team. “From there we have a good idea of what the clients are looking for,” reports Eitel. One thing was clear, the clients wanted something special. “It couldn’t be like a nice size television in a living room” states the owner.
For the Paradise Theater designers and engineers, finding out just what was possible meant doing some further investigation in the existing residence. Cinergy Construction, specialists in private cinema construction, agreed the best route was to demo the existing room during the discovery phase, enabling designers and engineers to proceed confidently and efficiently with accurate data. Not always the case with a remodel project. A thorough site study enabled Team Paradise to complete engineering and chassis design with maximum efficiency. Another factor that paid dividends in a remodel scenario. Greg Francis of Cinergy explains, “We’re in a finished home, I mean, a beautifully finished home.” Construction of the theater chassis was able to be completed swiftly to provide a clean and quiet living environment for the family. A level of care was appreciated by the client who said “she was sad to see them go” after four months of construction!
With the outer shell complete, it was time to engineer the interior elements. Always important, seating selection and configuration impact the listening and viewing experience. In this case, it was also meaningful for social settings and aesthetics. The owners desire to have a large and intimate setting and to be assured of unrestricted view drove the design. True to form, the clients found a way to make the process of design fun, turning seat selection into a family gathering and an evening of entertainment! Eitel relates, “When they were picking out chairs, the whole family came into our showroom and watched a movie together to make sure the chairs were comfortable for a long period of time.”
Getting it right was a recurring theme for the team. Brown explains, “High performance private cinemas are a design challenge. What might initially appear to be incompatibilities of construction, aesthetics and performance often leads to compromising one or more factor. Instead, we take an iterative team approach where our engineering, performance design and interior design teams work synergistically. The result is much better than any one team would produce alone.” Adding, “the perfect solution to every client’s vision exists, it is our job to discover and extract it. It’s like what Michelangelo said about sculpture - “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
Delivering that perfection was a team effort, like a well-rehearsed ensemble with everyone playing their part to perfection. Team Paradise interpreted the owners' wishes, presented solutions and detailed construction docs. “We keep the client apprised with renderings and visualizations throughout, so they appreciate the different options.” Says Brown. Detailed engineering and interior design drawings guided the players from both Robert’s and Cinergy through what could have been complicated coordination as Francis recalls, “it's always a very collaborative process when our teams work together.” Kyle Brown reports “We complete QA and PV (quality assurance and performance verification) all along, checking details and testing performance at critical milestones.” Brown points out “Cinergy makes it easy!” The homeowner reports, “Our project went so smoothly, we could not believe it. We finished on time and on budget, that never happens!”
It is often said that the last mile of any journey is the most challenging to complete. For luxury private cinemas, the last mile includes the calibration and tuning of the audio system. It is a step that is often ignored, underperformed, or even deemed unnecessary. In fact, a room as highly developed as this dream theater is well served and responds better to tuning than lesser rooms. Robert’s and Paradise make sure this is executed with precision.
The final step is a celebration. A sharing. With Paradise Theater, Robert’s Home AV and Cinergy Construction in attendance the client welcomed all into the theater with a flourish. “Isn’t it grand”, she exclaimed. The unveiling proceeded with a program designed to spotlight the features of their theater and was well served by selections curated on their Kaleidescape movie server. This time the program included a special surprise. Brown had secretly asked the husband the name of their wedding dance song. And just like that, a meaningful musical moment ushered in a new chapter of this couple’s journey. As proud owners of a luxury private cinema.
Is it worth the effort and investment? “I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to have what I have,” reflects the owner, “something that we did together, you know, and enjoy together and experience together. I would say it's definitely worth it.”
The Buffalo Run Private Cinema represents a new chapter of the owner’s lives, a key component of a new home in an amazing locale, featuring buffalo, elk and wide-open spaces. And what a home it is. “It’s one of a kind for hundreds of miles around,” the owner boasts. The residence is crafted with exquisite attention to detail and filled with all the things the couple has grown to love over the years. Their private cinema is one such item.
Chapter 1: The Mid-1990s - This early chapter in the homeowners’ story includes lessons learned almost 30 years ago. In this prior dwelling, the property included a blank canvas for the new home-theater enthusiast. “I knew I wanted to build a theater, and I was looking for a place to do it in,” reminisces the husband, who focused his attention on an unused room adjacent to the attic. The homeowners employed a technical consultant and current tech, which included a CRT projector, rudimentarily calibrated audio gear, and precisely placed speakers, producing an admirable result for its time.
The couple lived in their home and enjoyed this private theater for three or four years. He remembers they “really used that theater,” and that it was “a key feature when we sold the house.”
Chapter 2: The Early 2000s - After leaving their 1990s home with its retrofitted cinema, the couple lived abroad for several years. When it was time to return to the U.S. and find a new abode, they chose one that already had a dedicated theater, but it was merely a jumping-off point for the husband, who had become something of a cinema connoisseur after his first home theater experience.
The couple applied what they had learned to their new cinema project. “I wanted a screen that would go wall to wall!” laughs the husband. As for the theater’s complement of hardware, he confesses, “we replaced all the [existing] speakers and electronics.” The homeowners also had some ideas of their own. “There was this kind of a signature thing that we did by accident in the first theater,” he relates. “We liked to put in two rows of seats that had a vertical step. Behind the second row, we put in a bar. What we discovered with the first theater is that my wife and I liked to go up there and watch movies, but we also used it for entertaining and sports events.”
It seems each chapter in their cinema story had revealed new insights. “My screen was so big I could see the little window shades,” the owner recalls, “I think it was right after HD had come out. Everybody thought it was amazing. We’d regard it as terrible now.” He adds, “when you're a rookie at this, you focus more on the video side, but over time, you get more and more focused on the sound side,” he relates, explaining how lessons were learned about cinema sound as well. “We changed out all the electronics and speakers, but we kept the room noise,” the owner concedes. “We did everything we could to eliminate the room resonances that caused the buzzing and noises. I realized then we would have had to design it from the ground up to avoid that.”
Chapter 3: A Private Cinema Dream Team - “This is my third [private cinema],” the homeowner told Ryan Brown, President of Paradise Theater, “but it's the first one I’m building from scratch.” Ryan knew the owner had spoken with some other theater design companies and that he was looking for something extraordinary. “I explained our process,” says Ryan. “We call it Excellence, Always, and it is a systematic design and engineering process we have developed to address every aspect of a private cinema and deliver the very best possible result, every time.” The owner recalls, “I immediately knew, okay, this is what I've been looking for.
There was a team of professionals in place. The general contractor, Aaron Taylor Construction, and project architect, James Rothwell RA, NCARB, already had a strong working relationship. Integrator, Dan Berghoff and Axxis Audio, was another trusted partner in the venture. It was Berghoff who had the insight to further expand the team to assure his clients' cinema satisfaction. Dan flew with the homeowner to Southern California where PRO Audio Technology founder Paul Hales shared the wine with a memorable “a visceral and emotional demonstration” of private cinema sound. Hales quickly recognized that the homeowner wanted a more fully engineered solution including a room engineered for the acoustics and advised the owner to engage Paradise Theater for the cinema design and engineering.
With Paradise Theater coordinating the team, theater design development and construction proceeded as a collaborative effort. Drawings for the theater chassis, including all changes resulting from performance engineering, were produced by Paradise Theater and distributed to the rest of the project’s team. Aaron Taylor Construction got right to work. Chris Lindell, Project Manager for Taylor Construction adds, “once Paradise gave us the prints, we were able to just follow up and build it as they showed it.” Chris’ strict adherence to verification paid dividends when Kyle Brown, Paradise VP Operations and Quality Assurance, was able to write in his final QA report, “Great job everyone; I'm very excited about the progress and can't wait to see/hear the finished room!”
Such a high-performance private cinema is analogous to a high-performance automobile or even a finely crafted musical instrument. To realize the potential designed into it, precise tuning is required. Paradise Theater, Axxis Audio and PRO Audio collaborated on that as well. No small task in a system with 22 loudspeakers and 6 subwoofers powered by 57 channels of amplification! Paradise lead acoustic engineer, Keshav Nelavai relates, “when we got a chance to listen, the experience was transportive, immersive and powerful at all frequencies.” PRO’s Hales describes it as “a refined, big scale theater sound, but also super detailed. An experience that's right up there with the top rooms that you can find anywhere.”
“Paradise Theater brought a team approach that was effective; the theater is a success,” reports Axxis Audio’s Berghoff. “The acoustics are great, the room sounds phenomenal, the video is amazing, the customer turns it on, and it works every single time.” This particular cinema story has given Berghoff new insights that he now shares with others, explaining, “[The homeowners’] private cinema is their ultimate electronic amenity. They use it, love it and fully enjoy it. It’s a phenomenal addition to their lives that’s definitely worth the effort and investment.”
The owners couldn’t agree more, stating, “This was our third and best theater space. We’re very pleased with the result, and the room is highly utilized by us. We typically use the room three to four nights per week, not including when we have guests over. We’re fortunate to have a place like this available to us for daily use, and it’s become one of the more enjoyable ways for us to spend our leisure time.”
The origin of a private cinema story may have many inspirations as the owner of The Minema points out. “I have always loved music,” he muses. “And I've always loved movies, not to mention gadgets and technology.” Affinities that led to a small prototype theater in the couple’s previous home where he was first introduced to acoustic treatment, room correction and Kaleidescape. “It whetted my appetite,” he explains. An appetite that led to an atypical but highly advisable starting point if a high-performance private cinema is one’s ultimate goal.
CEDIA EXPO was being held a short drive from Los Angeles Wilshire District where the couple acquired a luxury hi-rise residence. The owner, resolved to be well informed, exclaimed, “Let's go to CEDIA!” At CEDIA, one recommendation stood out. The advice to consult engineering and design firms first, “was music to my ears” he recalls, citing the objectivity of design and engineering over “selling the equipment” inspired confidence and made perfect sense. He adds, “it's been a great experience since.”
A major renovation within a luxury hi-rise, including a high-performance private cinema, presents innumerable complexities and challenges. On a difficulty scale right at the top. And a fact the owners recognized from the start. After speaking with a short list of cinema design firms, the owner invited Paradise Theater President, Ryan Brown out for a face-to-face. “I explained how we go about engineering and designing private cinemas, the reasons for our process, and how we are always progressing. It was obvious that he was very vested in this room, and he took great care in making that choice.” Ryan continues, “ we walked over and checked out the new space. They knew they wanted to make this one better.” Ultimately, Paradise Theater was awarded the contract to engineer and design the Minema Immersive Private Cinema.
The initial challenge was to locate a high-performance private cinema in a relatively small space, elegantly, discreetly, and effectively. “It is a deceptively complicated step,” explains Ryan, “and easier to get wrong than you would think.” Paradise Theater’s functional concept process, akin to an architect’s schematic design, provides engineering and planning necessary to make informed decisions. Ryan adds, “We predicted the performance and acoustic requirements were going to take some space and we were right!” Team Paradise took great care in confirming the proposed construction would meet the building's very strict sound transmission requirements as well as the owner’s own sensitivities. Ryan relates, “it was vital that we exceed the requirements for building compliance because the owner wanted the room to be very quiet inside. He was, after all, seeking the highest quality of audio experience.”
Moving forward meant physically investigating the space and performing more specific engineering and design development. It was time to engage another key member of the project team. Specialty cinema builder, Fantastic Theaters was instrumental in confirming feasibility of the configuration and location, identifying some structural limitations to work around. “It really was a team,” recalls the owner, “certain parts of the team were very familiar with how to work together, like [Paradise Theater] and [Fantastic Theaters].” Going on to say, “the theater was the first room completed in my home. Easily, the most technically complicated room was the first room that was finished. So that gives you a sense of the level of teamwork that was displayed in this project.”
Departing again from the typical path, and advantageously, Quadell Group technology consultants helped the owners navigate technology decisions and selection of the integration firm. Tim Larson, Senior Consultant at Quadell explains, “As a technology consultant, we are brand agnostic. We help the client discover what is available, set goals and expectations, then help achieve them.” Tim explains the advantage. “A dealer’s normal process, usually ends up with a bill of materials before a room is designed and is product and budget oriented.” The owner adds, “I am not sure I could have done this project without Tim. He played a critical role in helping me scope out the entire project and select an integrator, a major contribution that is often not acknowledged.”
Audiovisions’ Chris Montreuil recalls meeting the owner for the first time. “I knew the moment I met them that we would do well together! They are discerning. They care about performance and they have a high standard.” A testimony of that assessment came In the eleventh hour of negotiations the owner came to Chris with a request. The owner was investigating an alternative audio solution and wanted assurance he was making the right choice. Chris deferred to Paradise Engineering for direction as Ryan recalls, “We were deep into the design and beyond the point of engineering for the room. But our philosophy is the paramount importance of getting it right for our client who was very clear in their desire to have extraordinarily detailed and immersive music listening experiences.” Paradise designers and engineers created comparative studies of the original loudspeaker specifications and the new speakers as well as two additional upgrade options. The owner recalls, “Because of that request, the analysis showed our original manufacturer's products were best suited for our interests, with one change. The analysis showed that if we used the same, bi-amped, line source speakers that we've got in our screen channels for the surrounds, we’re going to get a much better experience.” He concludes, “you know, immersive music has become one of the most exciting things that I've experienced in this installation.” From Chris’ point of view, it was worth the extra effort. “It's probably the project I'm most proud of.”
Back on track, Paradise released the progress drawings so that construction and interior design could progress. “Essentially a chassis,” Ryan shares, “a framework that the interior design works within. It sounds obvious to say, but either the functional design or the aesthetic design will be created first. Whichever comes first will impact the other. We have found that creative interior designers can always conceive a design that works with the chassis. It doesn’t always work the other way around.” Peter Dunham & Associates made it look easy. The single row of Cineak Largo seating exemplified the deft blend of form and function with triple motorized and automated technology. Peter’s specifications of warm stained millwork details and a colorway including a custom dyed silk fabric, coordinating carpet and seats , draped in custom fabric selected by the designer, contrast, yet harmonize with the rest of the home. Stepping from the apartment through the vestibule and into the Minema is a through the looking glass moment. The owners agree. “Walk through the vestibule and into [The Minema] and we're stepping into a haven, a different experience from the rest of our daily lives.”
The Minema is a big part of the couple’s daily lives. But to make it so required one added feature. “My wife thought I was crazy,” the owner laughs, “I said we're going to have this quiet room and it's going to have a big screen. Why don't we use it for video conferencing?” Fortunately, the professionalism of Audiovisions and engineering of Paradise exceeded the requirements of commercial integrator Yorktel, resulting in a stealthy system that performs perfectly. “We are getting a lot of use out of the conferencing functionality,.” states the owner. A unique example is a social event and community that enjoys virtual movie nights with friends from the Pacific Northwest. The group views a film in their own home theater and then gathers virtually to share their experience. The Minema, with its elegance and extraordinary performance, including a Kaleidescape movie server, reigns as the most enviable venue! The owner is quick to add, “Some people we have met in the group we now count among our closest friends.”
One special occasion, however, far exceeds all others as the owner shares. “We had decided to get married but had not set a date.” In the meantime, the pandemic struck, rendering travel and gatherings impossible. He quickly sent out a request to the team. “Can you help us make this happen?” Fast forwarding to the couple’s message to the team after their very unique wedding. “We want to thank each and every one of you for the part that you played in making our wedding day a very memorable event. Family members who watched the ceremony via videoconference were thrilled and delighted to be able to join us virtually. Thanks to your efforts, from now on the Minema will hold a very special meaning for both of us.”
No single feature defines a great private cinema. Design, engineering, technology, etal share the stage, complementary bringing pleasure to private cinema owners. An example of complementary benefit is indoor air quality (IAQ), a hot topic of late and specifically important in an intimate and airtight environment like a private cinema. The owner relates, “that's a critical component in terms of getting the comfort level right.” The engineering of a silent ventilation system that supports the IAQ enhances another favorite feature. “I would never have been able to appreciate immersive music at the level I do now if it hadn't been for this theater,” the owner states. “We selected speakers known for their musicality and which reproduce every detail of sound. It's listening to music when I can really hear that detail.”
About the value added to their lives, the owner of the Minema Immersive Private Cinema shares, “it's hard to imagine how it could not be important given how much use, how much pleasure we've gotten out of it. It's a shared space for me and my wife. At the same time, we use it individually. The fact that we can treat ourselves to time together in this room has become very important. It's something that brings us closer together, something that's helped us not just survive, but thrive.” That is precisely What Matters Most!
Paradise Theater provides comprehensive private cinema design, engineering and project management. Dedication to the creation of excellence and beauty in the realm of private cinemas is our driving force. Paradise Theater is a full-service organization, comprised of a team including project managers and cad designers, architectural and interior designers, acoustic and electronic engineers, who share this passion. Collectively, we exist to deliver the finest, most compelling private cinema experiences in the world to each and every Paradise Theater Client. Learn more at paradisetheater.tv.