Turning your home viewing into Home Theater

I go to the movies as often as I am able…well as often as I am able to score FREE or discount tickets. Obviously, I still watch plenty of movies at home in the evenings. As such, I try to make the environment as theater-like as possible.

My wife and I share a tiny little cottage so I don’t have one of those wonderful dedicated home theaters that I see so much of on the internet. Still my wife has allowed me to turn the living room into a movie room. many of my friends and particularly my family have contributed to the wall hangings and movie-related tchotchkes lying around.

We have a dual recliner sofa with cupholders and center cubby for remotes. Sadly the cats have ripped the bottom comfy bits out of it and shredded a fair amount of the leather so it is probably next on the list of replacements. I have a nice 55″ plasma television that we sit pretty close to and a soundbar. I cannot recommend a soundbar enough if you are still using television speakers. Mine was relatively inexpensive and the sound is so much better than a television speaker.

Popcorn machine

Our next best investment was an actual popcorn machine from Paramount. I love the smell of fresh-popped popcorn but I only ever seem to want a handful or two. My wife loves popcorn though. She is a saltaholic and I’m the diabeetus man. The popcorn it makes is at least as good as theater popcorn.

Wife loves popcorn

If you get a machine, absolutely get the Great Northern pre-measured packs off of Amazon. They are individual tri-packs of popcorn, coconut oil, and butter-flavored salt and they are perfectly proportioned.

Slushee

Sadly what I love at the theater are Coke Icees. I looked at home machines but all they appear to have are toys, slushee machines (not the same thing), or full-bore machines that weigh hundreds of pounds and are ridiculously expensive for home use. I tried a slushee cup from Amazon but it’s a lot of trouble for very little reward.

Regal Starlight Stadium 14

We had to drive over to Charlotte this weekend to see my Florida daughter and granddaughter. A fun time was had by all and we arrived early enough to go visit a Charlotte theater I had not been to.

Regal Starlight

 

Regal Starlight Stadium 14 is an older Regal property that has been partially renovated. We arrived at opening and were pleasantly surprised to find that matinee tickets were only $5 for first run films. We headed in to my favorite part of Regal: The Icee machines. I don’t know why but a Coke Icee is my favorite movie treat.

Starlight seating

Well, my wife was happy. She got a blue raspberry and cherry Icee swirl. Those flavors were working but, sadly for me, Coke was not. Still, Starlight was quite a treat as we finally got to try Regal’s new recliner seats. All of the screens in this theater have been reworked for the new recliners. This means each theater seats far fewer people than it formerly did but it seats them all in comfort, thus encouraging return visits.

Starlight wife

 

Above is my wonderful wife, reclining in her seat with Butterfinger bites, popcorn, and Icee. The seats power-recline at the touch of an inside button and are quite roomy. My wife and I are large and find them quite roomy.

Starllight lounge

 

The screen in our theater was oddly small, partial evidence of a retrofit. I think their bigger screens were reserved for Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and Fifty Shades of Grey. We were there to see Kingsman and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I sincerely hope these seats become the norm. They are set up in pairs and you choose your seating when you purchase your ticket. Elbow room on the offside is plentiful but expect to be cozy with your seat partner.

HBO, Game of Thrones, Coke Adds Life

* I have railed before (and likely will again) about the outrageous price it takes to watch Game of Thrones. I’m not adding cable TV AND a deluxe package AND HBO just to watch a single TV show. I’ll happily watch it on Netflix or another service but it is not available. I’ll happily pay for it by the episode or even rent it on Amazon or Apple but, again, it is not available. For me this means I have to wait until next April or so for Season 2 to become available on DVD/Blu-Ray.

Apparently everyone else though simply pirates it. Gizmodo recently put together two wonderful statistics. 3.8 million people watch Game of Thrones on HBO (Wiki) whereas there are approximately 3.9 million pirated downloads of each episode.

I’m not condoning piracy. Piracy absolutely is theft and the only people who say otherwise are, surprise, thieves but I will say that I understand frustration in this day and age of not being able to watch what you want when you want to. Clearly the numbers show a lot of missed opportunity on HBO’s part.

* HBO’s HBO Go is wonderful but only amounts to a drop in the bucket. Only 1% of HBO official (non-pirated) viewership is from HBO Go. This will gradually increase but not too much as it requires a HBO subscription AND a participating provider. HBO Go just recently became available on the Kindle Fire and is already available on iDevices, Roku, and Xbox 360.

* It’s been reported for a while now that Mayor Bloomberg is trying to ban large sizes of sugary soft drinks (anything over 16 oz) in restaurants and movie theaters in New York. Instead of going into the hypocrisy of a mayor who celebrates National Doughnut Day and attends hot-dog eating contests where the winner downed 68 dogs while decrying soft drinks as fattening, I often wonder about the logistics of such actions. Would this cause more people to go to New Jersey to see movies and go to restaurants? Would convenience stores see a huge bump in Big Gulp sales? Would an enterprising theater step up and offer a Buy One, Get One Free sale on beverages? Would there be a separate set of cups for those ordering Diet Coke?

While I don’t agree at all with Mayor Bloomberg as legislating morality is always a bad idea, Coca-Cola’s response was ludicrous. “There is no scientific evidence that connects sugary beverages to obesity” stated Coca-Cola’s Katie Bayne. Raise your hand if you recognize this as tobacco’s decades long defense of ‘there is no scientific evidence that connects cigarettes to cancer’.

Personally I like a fairly large icy beverage with my movie. I’m not concerned with meals so much as you can typically get refills. Unfortunately I hate water and diet colas and diet Mountain Dew, while fine in a can or bottle, tastes like bug spray on tap (no idea why). None of my local theaters has Minute Maid’s Light Lemonade (which is pretty good) and only one has unsweet tea. This means that I often have a large Coke at the theater but I would love some better options.

What I would love at every restaurant and especially every theater is the Coke Freestyle machine. Shown above, we have them at Moe’s restaurant and Firehouse Subs. It has a touchscreen where you can choose from dozens of sodas. Once you choose your soda, you can then choose from many different varieties. For example choosing Minute Maid Light Lemonade brings up Lemonade, Orange Lemonade, Raspberry Lemonade, Cherry Lemonade and a few others. Choosing Diet Barq’s Rootbeer brings up Diet Barq’s or Diet Vanilla Barq’s. These machines are fanatstic and the only drawback is that every new person takes forever to choose their flavor. Oh that and every man using it hits the Seagram’s button thinking it might dispense booze – really Jen and I watched it happen over and over again.