Hollywood at Home
Popcorn, giant screens and the best seats in the house
BY CAROL POLSKY
Jay Moskowitz is a movie buff, and when the Academy Awards air Sunday night, he'll be watching. But when he attended the midnight showing of "The Matrix Revolution," his wife was incredulous.
"You're still going to movie theatres?" Debbie Moskowitz asked. "You need therapy."
Jay Moskowitz doesn't go to the cinema very often. He doesn't have to - not with a quarter-million- dollar home theatre in his basement.
Debbie, who has a bad back, hates sitting in any movie theatre - even the one in her Farmingdale home. She rarely watches anything. But she did help her husband decorate their home cinema - from the aubergine and violet color scheme to the mini-candy counter stocked with movie-size Milk Duds and Raisinettes and the retro-style popcorn machine sitting on top of it.
Now that 28 percent of American homes have some kind of home theatre setup - ranging from relatively inexpensive all-in-one "theatres-in-a-box" to elaborate custom installations - it's not surprising that home decor is tuning in. We're not about talking technology here - about computer chips or liquid crystals or rotating prisms or pixel size or circuitry encased in silicon. We're not talking about LCDs or DLPs or LCoSs or the size of the screen or the width-to-height ratio - although these things certainly matter. After all, Americans spent almost $1 billion a year between 2000 and 2002 on home theatre systems, according to the Virginia-based Consumer Electronics Association.
We're talking about curtains and color schemes, about popcorn makers and movie posters, about velour ropes and 35mm reels turned into wine racks, about Art Deco wall sconces and lighted concession signs. About all accoutrements - big and little - that bring the cinema home.
We're talking about Jay Moskowitz's carpet.
"We spent weeks going to movie theatres just to see the carpets," says Jay, who took more than a year to select the technology that turned a 15-by-15-foot section of his basement into a home theatre. "I didn't want an obvious thing like movie reels, just a movie theatre feel and this carpeting is exactly that." The small pale purple dots blend perfectly with the carpet's plum background and the aubergine walls.
But Debbie's gift to her husband for his 54th birthday last year is, perhaps, the perfect touch - a molded plastic marquee welcoming friends and family to the "MoskoPlex."
Even before guests arrive, they can check out what's playing at the MoskoPlex on Jay's Web site, where he lists the 300 DVDs in his jukebox - which, by the way, refers to a large capacity computerized DVD-holder. The lights dim. A plush gold- fringed automated curtain opens. And there it is - the 8-by-4-foot screen. The movie starts - "Mission: Impossible" is playing at the moment - and the section of the Moskowitz basement adjacent to their home gym virtually rumbles as the 38 speakers imbedded in the acoustic wall and ceiling panels convey the impact of a plane hitting a mountain.
Indeed, home theatres can have as many bells and whistles and special effects as actual movie theatres. Fiber-optic ceiling lights with shooting stars, raised stages, recessed screens, sound-proof paneling, seats on floating platforms of wood and rubber that vibrate with the rumbling sounds from the sub-woofers.
Companies such as AcousticSmart in Merrick, which installed the paneling in the Moskowitz home theatre, offers a range of architectural styles - including moldings, pillars, framed ceilings, arched viewing areas and diamond-shaped panels. Home theatre designers create fantasies of kitsch, glitz and high style for moguls and movie mavens alike. And many furniture companies - such as Lane and La-Z Boy - have their own versions of home theatre seating, with cushy upholstery, motorized leg rests and cupholders in the armrests.
But it doesn't always take fancy installations to give a home theatre flair.
Dan and Lauri Kellachan built one in the basement of their Bellmore home long before the current craze. Their four ochre-colored theatre seats are real theatre seats, which Dan, who is marketing director for Westbury Music Fair, purchased from an architect who had hundreds of them from a bankrupt cinema project.
Dan used an old microwave cart as part of the cabinet he built around the 36-inch television set that seemed huge when they got it 15 years ago. He connected the TV to speakers behind the chairs and gave the room its distinctive graphic pizzazz with colorful posters and CDs from Broadway musicals. The home theatre became the scene of their annual Super Bowl party, with the football fans focusing on the big screen. Now, for the most part, the room has been taken over by their 13-year-old son, Dylan, and his friends for playing video games. But Dan still leaves the comfy upstairs den to watch a movie from his theatre seat.
While the technology behind cutting-edge home theatres might be mind-blowing, there's something about them that seems to unleash the inner child who fell in love with movies in the first place. Jay Moskowitz was smitten by science-fiction movies as a kid and now posters of two of his childhood favorites - "Forbidden Planet" and "War of the Worlds" - hang in the MoskoPlex. He also placed metal models of his favorite sci-fi robots on top of his retro-style popcorn machine. "I have this robot called Gort, from the movie 'The Day the Earth Stood Still.' He was 8 feet tall and he was always very scary. There he is, over there," Jay says, pointing to a color movie still of the robot with Klaatu, the visitor from another plant.
Favorite movie characters turn into favorite motifs. Life- size portraits of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid stand on either side of the entrance to George and Sharon Fontini's basement home theatre in Laurel Hollow. Sharon hired decorative artist Lauren Rosenblum to paint movie scenes. "I thought maybe a ticket-taker," Sharon says. "I wanted it to be fun." But when the artist learned that as a child George loved the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," she painted the two characters as portrayed by Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
"Every aspect of it is fun," says George, a jeans manufacturer, who loves the quality and comfort of his home-viewing experience. "The decorating aspect is great. It's still going on. Our friends throw in ideas. Next thing we'll do is get a curtain that opens and closes. Probably next year we'll put fiber-optics in the ceiling with shooting stars."
He ordered the 15 posters lining the stairway and rooms leading to the theatre from eBay. "The Godfather," "Pulp Fiction," "It's a Wonderful Life," "Alien," "Rocky," "Braveheart," "Shawshank Redemp- tion," "Taxi Driver." "All the movies we enjoy," he says.
Friends gave the Fontini family a velvet theatre rope and posts, and a plaque with Sharon's name on it made to look like part of the famed walk of stars outside Mann's Chinese theatre in Hollywood. The mat outside the double-door entrance to the home theatre looks like a theatre ticket, and the large brass sconces inside the theatre are shaped like giant shiny Oscars.
And the family's Christmas card featured a photo of the kids in tux and gown, posed on a red crepe-paper carpet leading to the door of their very own movie house.
At first, Sharon says, "I was like, 'Oh, what do we need this for?' But now that we have it, I must say it's great. I love creating the things that go around it."
George agrees. "It's endless. You can go on and on with what you want to do." He still enjoys going to commercial movie theatres to catch first- run films, although he goes less frequently now than ever. "I love the movies."
So does Jay Moskowitz. Which is why he's invited a dozen friends over to watch the Oscars on Sunday night. They'll settle into plush purple chairs and nibble on popcorn as the glitz and glamour of Hollywood unfolds on an 8-by- 4-foot screen in a Farmingdale basement now known as the MoskoPlex.