May, 2009 | by Lisa Montgomery | Original Article

Meant for the junk pile, an old wooden door sets the tone for a budget-friendly theater.

Unusual circumstances can hold the keys to inspiration. While walking through a local building materials company, Bill Raven of Raven Homes in La Crosse, Wis., stumbled across a dust-covered door. Distressed and fitted with a small lockable look-through, the door was once on display in the showroom with a price tag of $3,000. Ready to get rid of it, the shop sold it to Raven for $100.

Amazed by the deal he got, Raven showed it to clients who were in the process of finishing their basement. The old, unwanted door became the inspiration piece for the theater portion of the project.

Rated for outdoor use, the door was solid and therefore would help prevent noise from entering or leaving the theater. This was an important benefit, says Heath DeBernardi of The Audio Video Pros in Onalaska, Wis., as the rest of the basement would include bedrooms, a bathroom and a casual entertainment area with a flat-panel TV. To further seal off the theater, the crew framed the walls with double-staggered studs and stuffed in plenty of acoustical insulation.

The door also became the measuring stick for the budget. If Raven could get such a great deal on the door, then The Audio Video Pros should be able to create a theater for less than $25,000.

“After three attempts at a design, we came up with a room that would work,” says DeBernardi. To get to that magic number, the plan changed from using separate audio components to an all-in-one receiver, from an $800 Blu-ray player to a $300 model and from a high-end Runco projector to a more modest Optoma 1080p unit.

The Audio Video Pros did splurge on the center-channel speaker, though. “Eighty percent of what happens on screen comes from the center channel, so we went with a $1,000 reference model from Klipsch,” DeBernardi says. The audio portion of the budget was rounded out with front, side and rear Klipsch models priced at $400 a pair.

DeBernardi saved even more money by constructing the acoustical wall treatments himself. The eye-catching three-dimensional design added visual impact to the room, but came in at an affordable $2,200. “That’s about two to three times cheaper than had we ordered them preassembled from an acoustical treatment manufacturer,” he says.

From the $100 door to affordable alternatives in audio video equipment, The Audio Video Pros were able to pull off a project that settles in at under $25,000, but according to DeBernardi “looks and sounds more like a $50,000 theater.”