Nfld. & Labrador

Home cinema rooms increasingly popular with empty nester baby boomers

With video streaming services like Netflix becoming more popular, more folks in their retirement years are opting for a theatre-like experience at home.
In recent years, companies like Altronics in Corner Brook have been installing more elaborate home theatre rooms like this one. (Altronics)

With video streaming services like Netflix becoming more popular, and with the availability of media formats like Blu-ray and 4K, more folks in their retirement years are opting for a theatre-like experience at home.

That's according to Corner Brook, N.L., audio/visual company Altronics, which specializes in building custom home cinemas with projection screens, surround sound audio and whatever else people are willing to invest in to create an impressive home movie-watching experience.

"Over the last five or 10 years or so it has increased," owner John Alteen said in an interview.

John Alteen is the owner of Altronics Ltd. in Corner Brook. (Geoff Bartlett)

"We do projectors, we do screens, we do multi-speaker sound systems. It's basically unlimited what we can put in these rooms, right from a basic system right up to an exotic home theatre system."

One of those "exotic" setups can include everything from leather reclining seats with subwoofers built in, 8.2 surround sound systems, special acoustic wall panelling or carpet and projection screens bigger than 100 inches (250 centimetres) that would make most TVs look like one found on the back of an airplane seat.

A typical home cinema that Altronics installs includes reclining theatre seats, a 100-inch projection screen and even acoustic carpeting and soundproofing. (Geoff Bartlett)

Alteen estimates they've installed more than 20 such home theatres in the past several years in Corner Brook and other parts of the island — with a few costing as much as $100,000 to build. 

Some of the more elaborate ones even include automatic lighting that dims once the projector starts — just like a real cinema.

People are kind of empty nesting and they're building or renovating their homes.- John Alteen


"Whole rooms are a rebuild, if you're going that far with it. You're going right from the studs out when you rebuild your walls," Alteen said.

So why are more people going for these kind of home theatres, and who are they?

Projectors have the advantage of fitting most screens, and create a rich picture quality that seems more like an actual commercial cinema compared with a flat screen LED or LCD television. (Geoff Bartlett)

The traditional cinema experience is still quite popular, and it doesn't appear that people are building home theatres to replace going out to the movies.

With many in the baby boom generation now firmly in the retirement phase of their lives, Alteen thinks it has more to do with having the room (and budget) to allow them to splurge on such projects.

"People are kind of empty nesting and they're building or renovating their homes," he said.

"The kids are moved out and since they've opened up extra space in their houses. They've dedicated specific rooms for viewing rooms or media rooms."

This theatre room is under construction in Corner Brook. Alteen estimates Altronics has installed about 20 such rooms in recent years. (Altronics)

Star Wars and the rise of home cinema

Alteen said home theatres are nothing new, and really took off in the 1980s with the rise of home media like VHS and the motion picture blockbuster concept, which put greater emphasis on special effects.

"Going right back to the Star Wars days, about 30 to 40 per cent of the budget of that movie was into sound effects," he said.

"That's something we've been missing for a long, long time — people just not listening to the audio that's created in these movies."

But the convenience of renting and streaming movies online, as well as new 4K and even 8K projectors, now allow for theatre experiences at home that weren't possible just a decade or two ago.

"With the streaming capabilities now, people are spending more time in front of their TVs," Alteen said. 

"They're not driving around looking for videos anymore, and with the advancement now of 4K and 8K projectors, people want a dark theatre experience."

With more space in their homes, many baby boomers now have the space and budget to build cinema rooms. (Altronics)

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Geoff Bartlett


Geoff Bartlett is an educator and journalist in Corner Brook.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.