This basement home theater is so real you have to reserve seats

Show Us Yours: Disney's Great Movie Ride doesn't exist anymore, but Don from New Hampshire pays homage to it with his Shooting Star Theater.

David Carnoy
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
David Carnoy
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Say hi to Don from New Hampshire. Building a theater in the basement of his home was a longtime dream. He initially started building it -- mostly by himself -- in 1998 and finished in 2000. But after a flood damaged it, he rebuilt and reimagined it in 2014.

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The stairs leading down to the basement feature movie posters and LED lighting that makes you feel like you're entering an actual movie theater. 

Don's a huge Disney fan and loves immersive experiences. So when he set out to design and build his theater, he wanted it to "truly be an experience for our guests." 

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The entrance to the theater is at the base of the stairs.

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Before we go inside, let's take a look at the lobby he built outside the theater.

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He's got a full concession stand.

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Guests love that smell of fresh popcorn and the sounds of movie soundtracks playing from overhead, in-ceiling speakers.

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Old-school signage. 

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The candy is free.

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On the other side of the lobby from the concession stand Don's got some movie memorabilia.

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Every movie lobby needs a mannequin. 

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A closer look at the "museum."

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The memorabilia collection includes some pretty quirky items. 

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This is the bathrobe worn by James Garner in the hospital scene of The Notebook.

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For real.

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This name tag was worn by an actor in Batman Begins.

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Ewan McGregor's costume from Deception.

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License plates.

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Chairs for guests to hang out in, preshow.

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Don says: "The lobby includes numerous movie posters of upcoming movies as well as a collection of movies that I considered to be instrumental in my life ... mostly movies from the '80s!"

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The wall-mounted monitor simulcasts the programming from the theater.

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Let's head back toward the theater entrance.

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The Greatest Showman is playing tonight.

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The LCD just outside the theater provides showtimes for the evening's movies. It's not a multiplex, however. There's only one screen.

His Pearl Harbor poster signed by all the major cast and crew is a prized possession.

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The sign is a nod to one of Don's favorite, though now extinct, Disney rides: The Great Movie Ride.

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This is what it looks like inside. The theater has its own Facebook page where friends can reserve seats for upcoming showings. "They often sell out," Don says.

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From the front of the room looking back.

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Don says this 2002 Spider-Man poster is "historically significant" as it was recalled because it shows the World Trade Center reflecting in Spiderman's eyes.

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View from the back corner.

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An antique projector looks ready to display that night's movie, but it's just a prop. 

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The movie is shown using a Mitsubishi front LCD projector...

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...on a 110-inch screen 

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A closer look at the antique.

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There's even an antique bulb.

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Famous movie quotes have been discretely placed on the walls. "If you're not looking, you won't see them!" says Don.

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Tom Hanks said this.

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A few good men (and women) will sit in these seats.

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The upper tier of seating consists of six Irwin Seating Company home-theater seats. 

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The lower tier: four black leather power recliners.

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The theater also includes in-floor LED lighting that marks the walking path and the step to the lower level of seating.

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A closer look at the floor lighting.

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The screen from another angle. 

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There are four newly installed acoustical panels on the walls.

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Don says: "An Anthem MX-150 amp provides 5.2 discrete audio programming to seven separate speakers."

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The equipment rack.

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Full equipment list:

  • Anthem MX150
  • Sony X800 Blu-ray player
  • Monster Power HDP1800 power filter
  • Roku XDS
  • Sony BPD BX2 Blu-ray player
  • Sony CDP CA70ES CD player
  • Demon AVR-5700 AV receiver
  • Sonos Play amp
  • Mitsubishi projector
  • Miller and Kissel front, center, side, rear speakers
  • Paradigm subwoofer
  • Universal remote control MX-880
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Miller and Kissel front speaker.

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The rear speakers.

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Dim those lights.

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It's showtime!

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Don says: "I know a lot of home theaters are all about the equipment and the amps. While I certainly agree that equipment is so very important, my emphasis is on the experience. Everything I've done was to try to create the feeling of an actual, working movie theater."

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"At the end of the movie we will often have some great discussion about the movie that we just watched," Don says. "And after that guest climb the stairs and return to reality. Often guests have told us at the top of the stair that they can't believe that they are in somebody's house!"

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Thanks for the tour, Don. If you want to see more Show Us Yours showcases, we have plenty of them here.

And if you have a home theater you'd like to see showcased on CNET, submit your photos here.

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