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May 3rd, 2011 - Malena Lott

Film house fever

‘Coming soon to a theater near you’ could mean in your own home


Ssshh! The lights dim, demanding silence before sound booms from the THX speakers.

The only crunch of popcorn will be your own. The recliners go all the way back, feet up, making sleep possible, except for the crystal-clear, 120-inch screen keeping your eyes wide open. You don’t want to miss a thing.

All is well. For however long you remain in the comfortable dwelling, you are the king of your domain. Sometimes, you even share it with the rest of your family — “it” being the home theater, of course. For some, it’s a converted spare bedroom. But for the high-tech media hound, it could be a fullscale theater room, like the ones created by Onyx Theaters, 219 W Wilshire.

John Brill, J.D. Upton and Kelly Upton kick back in the Onyx showrom.

Such was the case for John Sorenson, a retired commercial Realtor, who built a home in Quo Vadis in Arcadia. Hollywood runs in their blood; once upon a time, he owned the now-closed Westwood Theatre on 5956 NW 23, and his uncle and cousin, Dub and Buck Taylor, were Western movie and television stars.

Ever since Sorenson and his wife, Carol, created their 14-by-18 theater room with six overstuffed chairs, they’ve watched an estimated 150 films on their personal big screen. And since every cave requires sustenance, he added a bar area with seating just outside of the theater.

For their Gaillardia home, Harvey Sparkman, owner and president of Midwest Hose & Specialty Inc., and his wife, Cindy, payroll manager for the company, went the concession-stand route for their theater, complete with vintage screening-room lights and a poster for the Oscar-winning Sandra Bullock drama, “The Blind Side.”

The Sparkmans say their theater room was inspired by the Moore Warren Theatre. She selected red chenille walls with a gold animal print, and black carpet with a gold and red swirl print. With 10 black automatic recliners and plenty of space on the floor, 17 people fit comfortably inside.

“Since the chairs go flat, our kids had their first sleepover in the room with their friends. Harvey loves to watch the news in the room, and it’s great for sports,” Cindy Sparkman says.

And with the screen measuring 161 inches, he won’t miss a single detail.


Obviously, the well-appointed theater room can come with a hefty price tag.

J.D. Upton, owner of Onyx Theaters, which outfitted the Sorenson and Sparkman homes, says one with all the accouterments — state-of-the-art, top-ofthe-line and professionally designed — can run between $25,000 and $50,000. Yes, customers can have a wall screen with a curtain that opens as the lights dim, and closes as the lights come up at the end of the movie, all with the click of a button.

“I wanted to bring the feel of the East Coast and West Coast theater rooms to Oklahoma,” Upton says. “It’s all about creating the experience.”

Designing one with equally impressive technology and ambience requires careful planning. Travis Neely, who does just that at Onyx, provided a few pointers.

“The room should be acoustically transparent,” Neely says. “Hidden surround sound is important, along with details, such as a stage for kids to perform.”

Color? He says to go dark and not to forget the ceiling.

“It needs to feel dark and theatrical, and you don’t want the light bouncing off the ceiling,” he says, adding that he prefers a sheen-less paint for that reason.

Customers should begin, he says, with determining the room’s true purpose: Will it also be used as a game room for the whole family, with a corner for a table and chairs? Such a multipurpose room must be designed differently than a straight theater room. Deciding these needs affects everything, from seating and storage to organization and flow.

While most theater rooms in Oklahoma are traditional, harkening back to the movie houses of yesteryear, the beauty of the creative process is the cave can be fully customized to the owner’s specific tastes and style.

“I’d love to design a modern, contemporary theater,” Neely says.


If luxury isn’t in the budget, never fear. Frugal Edmond engineer Jeremiah Smith pulled off his home theater for less than $2,500. How did he do it? A bit of do-it-yourself ingenuity, along with his know-how as an engineer for Pan American Drilling Services, and some help from good ol’ Dad.

“You can get a projector for next to nothing now,” Smith says. “It’s the screens that are so expensive.”

Solution? He used drywall and painted it to be the screen on which to project the 120-inch image. He bought the projector; added surround sound; installed red, theater-style carpeting; and settled on a large sectional, which comfortably seats eight.

He didn’t skimp on the details, either. Theater lighting with dimmer switches? Check. Floor rope lighting? Check. Pneumatic door? Ch — wait, what? Smith’s father built him a hidden door that uses an air cylinder to open and close it. Very “Star Trek,” is it not?

The room is a converted secondary garage, which means there was no window to worry about covering, and Smith says he’s very pleased with the outcome.

“I use it for sports events, movies for date night, drinking and partying,” he said. “It’s been a blast. I got rid of my other TV entirely and use this one to watch TV, too.”

And should you get tired of sitting, Smith says his man cave is great for impromptu dance parties, as well.

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