Where to get the essentials for a new pandemic-friendly home theater set-up

If you’re a movie buff who’s been stuck at home for the last six months, you’re no doubt missing being surrounded by an audience and taking in the latest films, absorbed in the visual grandeur and room-shaking sound of the cinema.

But maybe you’ve started itching to set up your own movie theater in your rec room or basement, complete with crystal-clear projection image, bass-heavy surround sound and all the ambience you’d expect from your local mall multiplex. If you’ve been wanting to sate your inner cinephile, here are some tips for what you’ll need.

Spokane’s go-to place for home electronics of all kinds is HUPPIN’S, which has been in business for a literal century. Since the pandemic hit, Huppin’s has leaned into the challenge of making your home more comfortable, and their new slogan — “life and technology connected” — reflects those changes.

One of their biggest concentrations right now is on home theater set-ups and custom home installations, as more and more people want to make their living rooms into a makeshift multiplex.

“With everyone staying at home and working on their homes, it makes more sense for us to kind of pivot the business,” says Chris Del Pizzo, the retail manager at Huppin’s. “We’re definitely not getting out of the retail side of things, but we’re going to make our showroom into more of an experience.”

As far as setting up a state-of-the-art home theater under your own roof, audio is as important as the visuals. The closest you’ll get to approximating theater sound is with a fancy set of Atmos speakers, which literally envelops you in sound — not just from the sides but also from above with ceiling speakers and a center channel speaker on the ground in front of you.

“It gives another dimension to the sound,” he says. “It allows the sound engineers for these movies to really play with sound, and in all three dimensions, which is really cool.”

For something less ornate, Del Pizzo says a quality surround sound system will start around $2,500.

If you’re considering setting up a digital projector, you’ll need to install it in a room where the light can be easily controlled (and, ideally, completely extinguished). Huppin’s sells Epson and Sony brands: Mid-range projectors can start at around $250 or so, with the more high-end, high-quality projectors starting around $1,500. The higher you go in price, the better the resolution of the projector.

And if you go the route of the projector, you’ll also need a screen. Del Pizzo says customers should follow the advice that you “date a projector but marry a screen,” because the screen will likely outlast the technology of the projector. Projecting images directly onto a wall or flat surface could work, too, but a screen gives you better color and contrast. Huppin’s actually installs custom screens, depending on the size and light quality of your desired home theater room.

Obviously, projectors require distance between the bulb and the screen and a complete lack of light for optimal picture quality. If you’ll be watching movies in a smaller room or in a room where light isn’t easily controlled, your best bet may be investing in a flat-panel 4K or 8K TV instead (Huppin’s sells Samsung, Sony and LG flat panels).

In all of these scenarios, Huppin’s will do free in-home estimates within Spokane County to tell you how best to set up your new equipment.

Of course, once you get your actual viewing equipment set up, you’re only halfway there — you also need some cozy furniture. Most multiplexes now have those plush recliner seats to approximate the experience of watching a movie from the comfort of your own living room, so simply wander down Furniture Row on North Division — SPOKANE FURNITURE, MOR FURNITURE FOR LESS and WALKER’S FURNITURE — all of which are open and have regular clearance sales. Try out a reclining loveseat with pillow-soft armrests, or go for leather seating designed specifically for home theater needs, with a center console and cup holders, so that your beverage of choice is always within reach.

Ambience is important, too, so you’ll want to make your personal movie palace a shrine to all things Hollywood. Consider some framed art, posters of your favorite classic films — BOO RADLEY’S is easily the quirkiest gift shop in the downtown core, and one of the back corners of the store has a great selection of cool cinematic prints and retro movie posters. But don’t just pin them to your walls with scotch tape: THE GREAT FRAME-UP, which has a location in the NorthTown Mall, can set your prints in gilded frames worthy of a movie theater lobby.

And what’s a movie theater experience without the popcorn? Sure, you could throw a bag of Orville Redenbacher in the microwave, or you could turn to CONCESSIONS SUPPLY near the Gonzaga neighborhood, which offers a catalog of commercial popcorn poppers. Maybe it’s a bit of an extravagance, but you’ll be glad you have it once the pandemic ends and you can host some truly epic movie nights.

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