The following article was written by famed theater designer Theo Kalomirakis in response to my article from earlier in the week entitled Everything Zen – Fewer Distractions, Not More Technology, Is What’s Needed In Home Theater. As many of you may know I’ve started writing for Theo’s new website, Theo’s Roundtable, during which time Theo and I have become friends. I did not solicit Theo to write the following response, but asked his permission to share it with you here, for I felt it was germane to the topic at hand. Out of respect for Theo and to avoid “stealing” traffic away from his site, I have posted only a snippet of his response. To read it in its entirety please visit Theo’s Roundtable. Thank you. -Andrew Robinson 

One of famed theater designer, Theo Kalomirakis’ “great escapes”.

Andrew Robinson’s recent post “Everything Zen” put a smile on my face—the smile of recognition. He hit the nail on the head: Watching a movie in a home theater and being able to be carried away by it has almost nothing to do with how much money we spend on technology or on a fancy design. Can the gear and the room “disappear” when the movie begins? That’s all that matters. And yet we tend to forget this simple truth: The technology and the décor are not and should not be the stars. They are just character actors. If they fight for attention and become distracting, the subliminal connection between the viewer and what’s on the screen is lost.

One particular sentence in Andrew’s blog might seem like heresy to our colleagues in the A/V industry but it resonated particularly strongly with me. He writes that, with technology, “the bar is so unnaturally high that I can piece together a setup for $1,000 or $100,000 and have both ‘blow your mind’ equally.” Well, I’m glad for whoever can afford to spend $100,000—or a lot more—on a state-of-the-art A/V system and just as much on the design of the theater itself. But, take it from me: Once the lights go down and the movie begins, two things will happen: 1) If the technology is in your face (speakers all over the place, blinking lights on an A/V rack under the screen, etc.), only the most insensitive viewer won’t be distracted. And 2) If the room is “present” even after the lights go down (ah! those designer-friendly off-white colored walls so the room doesn’t look too “oppressively dark”), you might as well watch the room rather than what’s on the screen.

Here is a story for you from my very distant past: I was building my first home theater at 100 St. Marks Place in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. The year was 1984—way before home theater was officially born and just few years after pre-recorded movies on LaserDisc and Novabeam front-projection systems were introduced. My dream had always been to own my own theater and watch movies in it day and night.

When I saw that technology was finally catching up with my dream, I pounced. I had to have my own theater. I wanted it so badly that I couldn’t sleep at night. I had no money for it but I was not about to let a mere technicality interfere with my dream. The only space in my house for a theater was the basement. But it was so filthy that only mice found it hospitable.