Home cinema install: Bargain basement!

Costing less than £10,000, this tidy screening room really piqued our interest

While the premium picture palaces delivered by professional install outfits are guaranteed to get us salivating, a dedicated movie room doesn't have to be über-expensive. Proof, if you need it, comes in the shape of this basement theatre undertaken by FAB AV from St. Albans, with hardware and installation costs coming in at under £10,000.

The room is one part of a basement in a new-build property, with the subterranean space being split into two to create a games room next door. When FAB AV were brought in, the room that was to be the cinema was a bare-block shell. 

The owner demanded a theatre that could be used for movie and bigscreen sports viewing for three generations of his family, with multichannel audio and simple furnishings and decoration. The room mixes traditional sofa seating (the owner's preference) with a rear tier of original cinema chairs (for his grandchildren to munch popcorn on), all recovered to fit the monochrome décor.

A screen par Excellence

Taking centre stage is a 120in 16:9 ratio projector screen from British company Screen Excellence. A fixed-frame model, it's mounted on the main wall and uses an acoustically transparent fabric – important as that wall also hosts the LCR soundstage of the room's 7.1 speaker system, with the centre channel hidden. For this trio, Monitor Audio's in-wall WT280 models were specified. Each features an 8in C-CAM bass driver and a pivoting C-CAM gold dome tweeter (rated up to 30kHz) in a traditional two-way design.

The construction of the tanked external wall meant there was a gap behind that would house in-wall speakers. However, the surrounds are mounted on-wall, as each side is load-bearing concrete, which limited the options. Monitor Audio's FX models are used here; the rear back channels are delivered by a pair of in-ceiling CT280s, while a Silver subwoofer, parked in the front corner, tackles bass duties. Because there's a solid concrete floor above, it was decided that soundproofing the cinema wasn't necessary.

Giving the speakers their grunt is a mid-range Pioneer receiver, housed in a rack in a nearby plant room, along with a BDP-450 disc spinner from the same brand. A Sky+HD box is also racked for those all-important sporting events.

The lynchpin of the system is a JVC projector – the Japanese company continues to be a favourite amongst pro installers. In this instance, a JVC DLA-X55, ceiling-mounted at the room's rear, creates the largescreen HD visuals, aided by the company's eShift tech and fulsome calibration options. Says FAB AV installer Phillip Warris: 'This projector provides cinematic picture quality with flawless black levels and real depth of colour, yet is also a cost-effective solution and thus ideal for this installation.'

No-frills cinema

Often, we see bespoke home theatres controlled via dedicated Smart solutions, with slick one-button automation of source, power and display hardware. That's not the case here. Instead, individual remotes are still used, in conjunction with IR repeaters. Old school – and affordable – although FAB may return at a later date to install a system to simplify things. In fact, affordability is a recurring factor here. There's no acoustic room treatment beyond the carpeted floor, while lighting is only adjustable via a manual dimmer.

These are additional elements that can be considered again in the future, of course. What the owner has now is a dedicated space that delivers movies with premium visuals and discrete (and discreet) surround sound, and without breaking the bank.

Installer info

Fab AV
01727 226 121

Kit list

Monitor Audio: 3 x WT280 in-wall speakers; 2 x CT280 in-ceiling speakers; 2 x Silver FX on-wall surround speakers; Silver subwoofer
Pioneer: AV receiver; Blu-ray player
JVC: DLA-X55 projector
Screen Excellence: 120in 16:9 acoustically transparent projection screen
Sky: Sky+HD receiver
Recovered cinema seating