Home Theater Build

Project Timespan

2013-2016, mostly during breaks from school and after work


Who doesn’t love going to the movies with family and friends? When our family decided to finish the basement, we all agreed that the one room we needed to install was the movie theater.



Note that this post is the second in a series highlighting the home basement build, which you can check out here.

Project Overview

This process really involved the creation of two spaces, that of the hallway of posters and that of the home theater. Therefore, I will divide this post into different sections as compared to that of the home basement build, which focused more broadly on building materials, framing, painting, etc.


1. Designing the Floorplan

2. Hallway Build

3. Home Theater Build

1. Designing the Floorplan

The first design point I had to make was on the placement of the home theater room within the larger area comprising the home basement. We ultimately decided on the area adjacent to the guest bedroom and library, but the other option we considered was the area that eventually became the wet bar.

I chose this space because it allowed for a greater distance between the viewer and the screen, offered a more straightforward symmetric design, and provided a good setup for the hallway entrance.

I really wanted to make the theater in mirrored symmetry along the long axis, which required accounting for the sump pump at the far right corner from the viewer’s vantage point. From the diagram, you can see that the original design was not symmetrical, but rather called for a sliding door to access the sump pump.

This second diagram represents the planned electrical layout of the theater. I wanted to have recessed wall nooks with accent lights for each of the movie theater posters, as well as two sets of lights for the main home theater area. The first would be wall sconces that gave off a warm, but dim glow, whereas the second were recessed lights right near the movie theater screen itself.

We actually didn’t change much about the layout of the lighting in the end, other than opting for two recessed lights rather than three.

2. Hallway Build

Design Overview

On the main floor and upstairs of our house, my parents worked with the builder to incorporated several archways into the design, and I wanted to carry over this element into the basement. I thought it would be really neat to have an arched design for the ceiling and arched alcove-like spaces for movie posters. The arched ceiling would also function to hide the supportive I-beam that ran down the length of the basement.

Furthermore, I planned to have a museum-style accent light shining down on each poster, as well as one at the end of the hallway where it made a 90-degree left turn into the theater itself.

With respect to framing, the hallway was probably one of the more challenging aspects of the home basement build. There were a total of seven curved-alcoves in which I had to fit a spot for the accent lighting. There was the curved ceiling itself, and there was also the raised elevation entering the theater for purposes of platform seating.

For some reason, the electrician did not cover the wiring of the accent lights, so my dad did it himself. I framed nearly the entirety of the hallway when my dad was away on a business trip over the summer of my senior year. 

For the curved ceiling, I framed it in sections – first, I cut out plywood rectangles on the table saw, then used a jigsaw to cut the curved lower border. I would then screw these pieces together with 2″ x 2″ runners (ripped from 2″x 4″), making sure that the flat edge of these pieces was tangential to the curvature of the plywood arc. 

I got to say, this was a tedious process, but it was so much fun seeing it go together. For the alcoves, I repeated the process, using shorted runners, and made sure to include a holder at the top for the accent lights. I also attached 2″ x 2″ strips along the left and right borders of the alcoves for the drywallers later to secure the drywall section in place.

Drywalling and Finishing

We decided to outsource the drywall part of the basement build. Mudding, in particular, is not straightforward to obtain a smooth, professional finish, and we knew that drywalling the hallway would not be easy given the many angles and curves. These guys were fantastic, though! The secret to arched ceilings is to use two layers of quarter-inch gypsum board rather than the standard half-inch stuff. Scoring the backing is necessary to obtain the proper curvature. I staggered the runners so that I was able to screw and nail the sections in place, but I’m sure this made for a challenging task in drywalling and mudding.

Theater Painting

For the hallway and the movie theater room, we kept with two shades of blue-gray. I don’t want to belabor this part – slow and steady does the trick! A pointer here – always remember to paint the drywall surface with a layer or two of primer first! I really like the contrast and lighting within the photo of me painting the ceiling of the theater.

Movie Posters

For the movie poster selection, I chose a poster from a film that was released each decade from the 1930s to the 2000s, totaling eight. Now, these films are not necessarily my favorite film of that decade, but rather I admired the design and overall aesthetic of the posters themselves. 

Not all of the posters I ordered were exactly the same dimensions, so I made the frames to fit – using a table saw and a miter saw for the majority of the work. The joints were simple miter joints secured with wood glue and reinforced with metal splines. I used solid oak for the wood, which in retrospect is a suboptimal choice monetary-wise, as I ended up staining the wood with a near-black finish.

3. Home Theater Build

Design Overview

When designing the home theater, there were two features that I had in mind. I wanted the room to be symmetric along the long axis  and add in platform seating for viewers. There were a few challenges with the room layout: there a sump pump located near the far inner outer corner, as well as a PVC pole midway through the room with an I-beam support cutting across along the ceiling. To bypass these two features, my initial design was to simply frame it out and add in a sliding door access for the sump pump, as seen in the blueprint I included towards the top of this post.

My itch to make the room symmetric won out, so I designed a curved stage at the base of the theater screen that was connected to two rectangular columns on either side of the screen; the right end of the stage and right column would hide the sump pump while the left column was a dummy column, analogous to the fourth chimney of the Titanic. To access the sump pump, I framed out a large rectangular opening that is covered with a black screen wrapped over a 2″ x 2″ frame, To the observer, the screen would appear as some sort of acoustic panel. I repeated the process with the dummy column, and we’ve used the storage space to hold extra carpet left over from the theater flooring.

For the I-beam and steel pole, I decided to frame out two columns at either end once again; however, this time around, the column on the left, albeit a dummy column, per se, would function to block the view of a recessed space consisting of shelving for movies and electronic consoles.

The platform seating and the stage were created from 2″ x 8″ lumber, and then we used 3/4″ plywood for the floor support. The resulting platform is really quite sturdy. There were two levels to the platform, making for three tiers of seating. We also put in many bags of sand underneath the platform to eliminate any reverberations from the speakers.

I decided to drop down the ceiling in the middle third of the room to frame out the piping and I-beam support. The ceiling rises up at the same level as the transition from the first to second level of the platform, such that the ground-to-floor height is relatively uniform throughout. The far end of the room also has a full-height ceiling to maximize space for the theater screen.


Audio-Visual Setup

While I did read up on audiophile website regarding the proper dimensions and room ratios for optimal reverberations and surround sound, I pulled a reverse Louis Sullivan and put form over function. Nevertheless, I am pretty confident that the final layout of the home theater does offer very solid acoustics. 

I remember spending a long time deciding on the audio setup. There are so many options, from 5.1 to 7.1 to 7.2 to 9.2 and more. I should mention what these numbers mean. When one hears, for example, Dolby 5.1 surround sound, the five refers to the number of full bandwidth channels while the one refers to the low-frequency effects channel (i.e. subwoofer). I convinced my folks that 7.1 was a good setup for audio, consisting of a front central speaker, two front side speakers, two side speakers, two rear speakers, and a subwoofer. We ordered the majority of the speakers from JBL.

We had a few ideas regarding the screen. There were options to have a pulldown screen from the ceiling, pre-made screens one could purchase, and even reflective white paint used directly on the wall itself. I ruled out the first option from an aesthetic perspective, the second option from a pride perspective, and the third option from a functional perspective – our basement walls have knockdown texturing. Therefore, I decided to make the theater screen from scratch – super easy, and there are many tutorials online. Make sure to use the appropriate material for the screen itself. We also added in a black velvet border to keep everything nice and sharp. The final dimension of the screen along the long diagonal is approximately 120″.

For the projector, we bought a Epson projector – no complaints there. With extra scrap wood, I built a projector enclosure that turned out nicely! I figured out a nice way to minimize the visibility of the cables with a wooden stem reaching the top of the ceiling, from which the front is detachable to access the cables. I probably should have added more ventilation holes for improved air circulation, but I didn’t… fingers crossed, so far so good.


When we first completed the theater around 2016 or thereabouts, we used a blue-ray player for the movies, but nowadays the Xbox One does the trick admirably, with its blue-ray capabilities, access to Amazon Prime and Netflix, and collection of video games.

Decorations and Furniture

In terms of total cost, the home theater room was probably the priciest room of the entire basement. I managed to convince my parents that it would be well worth it to select a fancy dark red and black carpet and have it installed professionally. A simply fantastic end result!

We ended up with two sets of movie theater reclining chairs: a set of three lower-end recliners that Walmart had a great deal on, and a set of six higher-end theater-style chairs with cup-holders that we ordered from online. I honestly find both chairs to be of similar comfort when lounging in to watch the film.

For additional decoration, I put together several frames out of 1″ x 1″ strips I ripped from 2″ x 4″ and then covered with acoustic screening. I used the projector to trace out designs and used images online to create the following two quadriptychs. The first is a set comprising a Cowboy Bebop/ Pulp Fiction mashup on top, with a Bruce Lee pose in the bottom left and the Iron Giant in the bottom right. The second are a set of four classic-era Hollywood scarlets – Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint, Katherine Hepburn, and Audrey Hepburn. Saint may not be as famous as the others, but she’s great in North by Northwest.


The white baseboard that we installed at the end really combines well with the colors of the wall and the carpeting on the floor. I wanted to capture the sense that one was at the theaters as well, so I chose wall lighting styled with a pane of glass that produced a warm, diffusive light.

Lessons Learned & Improvements

I could nitpick on and on and on, about material selection or design choice or anything in between, but instead I thought it would be a fun exercise to look back on the movie posters I selected for each decade from the 1930s to 2000s – what would I choose instead, with hindsight? 


An absolutely fantastic film, and the movie poster, too, with a ghostly silhouette of a man marked only by a chalky M on his overcoat, strikes fear into the onlooker. In retrospect, I should have selected an alternate version of the movie poster with an up-close view of a hand with a sanguineous M.


This was the only film that I did not previously see when I selected it to be one of the hallway posters. While I do enjoy the style of comedy Chaplin incorporates in his work, and this film should be recognized for its outstanding final monologue, when I finally saw the film, I was quite exhausted for whatever reason. Therefore, I have an (admittedly biased) negative view on this film, and in hindsight I would have chosen something else. Looking online, though, the 1940s’ posters are generally incorporate “pulpy”-style artwork of which I am not too fond, so an alternative is hard to provide.


I absolutely adore this movie, and it may be my favorite comedy film I have ever seen. Billy Wilder is a master of the art of comedic screenwriting, and this film has some of the greatest zingers in all of cinema. With two cross-dressing men alongside Sugar herself, this poster is really great, and even if a small improvement can be made here or there… “Well, nobody’s perfect!”


Wow, I realize while making this post that three of the first four films I selected are some sort of comedy! My mind doesn’t immediately jump to comedy when I think of Kubrick, but this is one of those classic, timeless comedies. Very satisfied with including this movie poster.


I saw this movie while on a plane to Asia, I believe. While the movie itself is highly exciting and inspirational, and I do like the simple busts depicting the two main characters, there exist a whole host of 1970s movie posters that would have also been good choices for this spot. In particular, I think of the poster for a movie such as Apocalypse Now.


If you read and enjoyed 1984, check out this adaptation from Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame. As the cheery Aquarela do Brasil theme plays throughout this fantastical dystopia of bureaucracy, revel in the absurdity that unfortunately reminds one much of our present-day world.  Amazing film and poster both!


Along with Brazil and Some like it Hot, Fargo is certainly on my top-ten list of favorite films. If I ever get into the craft of cross-stitching, this poster is the perfect one to recreate! Such a peaceful, well-stitched image until you realize what the scene really portrays.


One of the most underappreciated war films. I found this poster to be beautiful in its coloring and simplicity. This could be a photo of a man on vacation wandering a beach, until you realize that the “cane” is a sword and this beach is on a forsaken island of death. I don’t know, I like this poster a lot, what can I say.


It seems of all the rooms in the basement, the home theater is the most eye-catching! After the audio system was all set up, I didn’t even wait for theater chairs to arrive; I plopped myself down on the carpet and watched the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, the first of many movies played on the small silver screen.