Expensive tastes: Cost of the ‘ultimate theatre’ rivals Vancouver condo prices

Experts says some customers willing to pay $400,000 for custom home cinema

The Sound Room on West Broadway builds custom home theatre systems that go for as high as $400,000 | Credit: Rob Kruyt

Part of BIV’s What big money buys series: Wealthy Vancouverites are lavishing untold amounts of money on big-ticket indulgences, driving a bonanza for the region’s dealers in luxury furnishings, vehicles, yachts and other top-tier toys.

While Vancouverites shuffle into theatres to watch the latest Ant-Man or Mission: Impossible, a select segment of cinephiles will forgo mixing with the masses while basking in the summer movie season.

Instead, the city’s ultra-rich are tucking away at home in front of custom-built home theatres made to emulate the experience at the cinema as closely as possible.

“This quote that I’m giving to this guy is somewhere north of $380,000 to $400,000, roughly, by the time the dust settles,” says Mark Macdonald, owner of The Sound Room on West Broadway.

So what exactly are people getting for the same price as a manor in Moncton, New Brunswick, or a one-bedroom condo in Vancouver?

Macdonald said the “ultimate theatre” would consist of 18 channels and two subwoofers.

And the No. 1 indicator of someone who paid top dollar is what Macdonald and other sound experts refer to as the “voice-of-God channel.”

It’s found with the Auro-3D setup that sends the room vibrating with sounds coming from directly overhead.

Meanwhile, an “affordable” multi-channel processor goes for $3,500, according to Macdonald, while the “ultimate theatre” requires a unit in the $15,000-to-$20,000 range and another $80,000 to $100,000 for amplification.

The most economical component of the ultimate viewing is the display.

London Drugs Ltd. merchandise manager Colin Cottrell said high-end customers nowadays are all starting with 4K TVs, which have come down substantially in price the past few years.

He said consumers looking for a top-end screen have a choice between LCD, which uses a backlight to illuminate pixels, and OLED, which uses pixels that produce their own light.

Cottrell said customers need to view the LCD and OLED displays side by side to determine the best fit for their home entertainment setup.

“The dollar value jumps substantially once you hit the 70-to-80-inch range. You can actually get higher than that but it increases exponentially,” he said, adding that customers are looking at paying up to $6,000 for the high-end TVs found in stores.

“Very few people can put a 100-inch panel … in their home. That being said, they’re not produced and stored waiting to be sold. They actually make them on demand.”

Luxury car owners who want to take high-end quality sound on the road can’t rely on what rolls out of the factory, said Ruben Rivera from SoundsGood Auto Services in Burnaby.

“They’re built so damn well and they’ve got all these performance features, but they all cheap out on the stereo,” he said.

The owner of a 2018 Porsche Targa recently came in looking for speaker upgrades for the brand new luxury car.

“That customer wanted to spend about $10,000 and he ended up leaving with $15,000 because he heard the different speakers we had on display,” Rivera said. “It depends on the quality of the gear.”