preview theatre - north west

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The brief for this project was to turn an unused squash court into a dedicated home cinema and bar. The client has a background in mixing consoles for the audio industry which made it immediately clear that the audio performance was one of the most important factors and that he was a true audiophile. There was however quite a strict budget and the desire to gain the maximum value for money whilst achieving a cinema with superb audio and video capabilities. It was also important to have that special wow factor that was in keeping with the professional preview theatres he was accustomed to.

As the squash court was previously only being used as storage space we came up with a design that built a two tier steel construction floor into the room giving the client the benefit of retaining ample storage space in a separate room under the front seating level.

In addition to this we suggested that they could fit a gym under the rear seating level which they thought was great use of the space.


Project overview

The project comprised a fixed 2.35:1 screen, 1080p DLP  projector, 5.1 audio and lighting control via a TPS-4500 and iPhone and iPad. The TPS-4500 is great for browsing movies on the server whilst the rest of the viewers can continue to watch Sky or play on the games consoles.

The video sources are Sky HD, Blu Ray, Games consoles and a Dune SMART media streamer in conjunction with a 12Tb QNAP hard drive server. We did consider supplying a Kaleidescape system but due to the budget constraints we thought the money could be better allocated elsewhere so we set up the Dune system with the client’s 700+ DVD and Blu Ray collection.

When the client enters and presses a button for the hallway lights, the Crestron CNX keypad welcomes them via the built in speaker and raises the lights in the gym to show off the room as they walk past the glazed sliding doors to the stairs. These dim down again after two minutes unless a scene is selected on the gym keypad.

Once we had decided on the two tier seating and new floor, we carried out acoustic assessments and built out the walls which were then filled with rock-wool and covered with an acoustically transparent material. We also carpeted the ceiling to minimize the audio reflections and the result was a very ‘dead’ space which was perfect for the clients discerning ear.

We put a partition between the gym and the storage room on the ground level so that the rack and equipment could be seen as the viewer walked past the gym and ascended the stairs to the cinema. This also meant that we had good access to the back of the rack from within the storage room.

We set up Sky remote record for the HD box so that any movies or TV shows could be scheduled from their iPhone or iPad. We also routed an analog feed back into their distribution amplifier so that they can browse and set up recordings from any other TV in the house with the use of the iPhone and iPad Crestron apps.

We installed a 4 camera CCTV system and an entry keypad at the front door. If this is pressed it rings all of the phones but if a movie is being watched then it will be paused and the CCTV camera inside the front porch will be shown for 10 seconds before the movie is displayed again and resumed.

As the cinema is completely enclosed with no other access than the entrance from the snooker room, we were concerned that in the event of a fire elsewhere in the house there would be nothing to notify the occupiers of the danger. As a result of this we installed a UPVC door behind the front left speaker with a ladder than can be dropped down the outside of the house. We installed this speaker on a custom made roll out shelf with a large handle and in the event of a fire the front of the speaker cover can be easily removed and the shelf can be pulled out.

We also upgraded the phone system and added smoke detectors which were also liked into the control system for notification.


client verdict

The client loves their new theatre and was very impressed with the acoustic responsiveness we were able to achieve in such a large space and with the limitations we had.

The client is also really happy with the additional features that we added to the project such as integrating the smoke alarms with a notification system and the hidden fire exit for use in the event of an emergency. Another item that the client really sees the benefit of now they are using it is the lighting control system so we are currently drawing up plans to extend this to other parts of the property.

The client told us that they now use the space several times a week and are overjoyed at being able to reclaim the space that has remained unused for almost 20 years.