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Theater Number 2

Let the kids command the living room entertainment. New bedroom media centers are becoming the family’s second theater

BY JIMMY MAGAHERN

Published by: Arizona Republic, October 22, 2007

Rob Cowan rues the day those Philips television commercials began wooing hip young urbanites into believing they could install a plasma TV on their bedroom ceiling and take in a favorite DVD lying flat on their backs.

“Plasmas are not supposed to be tipped more than 30 degrees, let alone attached to a ceiling,” said Cowan, an audio/video specialist at the Showcase Home Entertainment store in central Phoenix.

Whether or not the glass on the 42-inch unit shown in the popular ad would have supported the TV’s nearly 100-pound weight – a serious safety question in itself – Cowan says the effects of gravity on the inert mixture of neon and xenon gases pressed between a plasma’s panels would eventually render the screen blank.

“We were all really annoyed with Philips after that,” Cowan said. “Because after that commercial, people were coming in saying, ‘I want to put a TV on my ceiling.’ And we had to say, ‘You can’t!’”

On the up side, the 2002 commercial heralded in a whole new interest in specialized home entertainment systems for the bedroom – an idea that, thanks to dropping prices in plasma and the newer LCD screens (which, incidentally, can be suspended upside-down), is only now becoming affordable for the masses.

“What people are doing now is putting in secondary personal theaters in their bedrooms,” said John Montez, a sales consultant for Cinemagic Custom Home Theaters in north Scottsdale. “Some place where they can get away from the big family system in the living room and be a little more cozy and intimate with their surroundings.”

In many cases, these second theaters become even more plush than the older media centers already losing some of their luster in the living room. Think Cine Capri bling as compared to the crowded multiplex feel down the hall.

“People are taking it a step further now,” Montez said. “What they’re doing now is using lots of lifts and incorporating them into furniture, either at the foot of the bed or in a credenza, to bring up the screens when viewing and hiding them away when they’re not. They’re also using more architecturally sleek speakers, and even automating things like lighting and thermostat control, so that they can control the whole room without getting out of bed.”

For Jeff Meskan, who runs Nexus 21, a Scottsdale company specializing in the telescoping heavy-duty lift mechanisms that make those large flat-screen TV’s rise from the foot of the bed, the boom in bedroom theater has been great for his business.

“Back when the plasmas cost $10,000, nobody really wanted to hide them – it was a status symbol to have one mounted on a wall,” said Meskan. “Now that they’re under $2,000 and everyone more or less has one, there’s much more of a ‘wow’ factor in having the screen pop up out of a cabinet.”

The hide-away tech also appeals to women, who are having a greater say in what entertainment goes into the bedroom than they did over the monstrosity that already rules the living room.

“A lot of guys are finding it’s harder to talk the wife into putting big floor-standing speakers and a rear-projection TV in the bedroom,” said Cowan, with a knowing laugh (he admits to having a pretty elaborate bedroom rig himself). “Usually everything in the bedroom is scaled down a little bit, so it doesn’t become the focal point of the room. Like flush-mount speakers painted the same as the walls to virtually disappear. And the manufacturers are now building in-wall speakers that rival the larger ones of the past. Everything is moving toward being smaller and more hidden.”

Lighter and thinner LCD screens, too, are beginning to edge out plasmas in popularity, especially in the bedroom, where liquid crystal display panels can be tilted at angles the plasmas can’t handle – including that sought-after ceiling view.

“The LCDs, with their higher resolution and lower price, are kind of taking over the market,” said Montez. “Plasmas still have superior picture quality, but the LCDs are catching up.”

Lowered prices and sleeker design, finally, are giving home audio and video buffs an excuse to do what they’ve long desired: to build that private movie theater and concert hall away from the maddening noise of the family room.

“The cost of flat-panel TVs have come down to about half of what they were five years ago, so it’s no longer cost-prohibitive to build that second system,” said Cowan. “And that’s a lot easier to get the wife to sign off on, too!”

”–

Photos courtesy Toll Brothers

Make your bedroom cozy by adding a loveseat or couch at the foot of your bed for another TV watching spot. The Villarica model at Saguaro Estates in north Scottsdale features plasma TVs in the bedroom.

As plasma TVs become sleeker, designers say you no longer have to hide them - even in the bedroom. The Strada model at Windgate Ranch in north Scottsdale shows you how to create an intimate viewing area.