It isn't any news that the economy is in the dumps. Morphing your living room, garage or basement into the screening room of your dreams is harder today than ever before but fret not - there is a way for you to live out your home theater fantasies without having to take out a second mortgage (as if banks hand those out anymore).
Almost every hotel this side of a Motel 6 has a flat HDTV in the room. However, most fail to offer you any HD content, let alone any kind meaningful surround sound or overall home theater experience. To say the experience is "soft core" would be to highlight just how much time I spend in a hotel room. The good news is that an increasing number of today's luxury hotels and resorts are starting to offer amenities based around high-end AV and home theater. These hotels aren't of the budget variety by any means, but if you are a home theater enthusiast looking for a winter getaway, you might be able to also get a chance to experience home theater in ways that aren't very feasible in most homes. Here are some of the highlights from some pretty exotic locations:
The Hazelton Hotel, Toronto
It's no secret that Canada is doing everything that they can to woo Hollywood studios to make movies north of the border. It's also no secret that Hollywood studio execs and luminaries can be pretty demanding when it comes to the luxury they demand. For those looking for something a little more hip and luxurious than the Four Seasons while staying in Toronto, there is the Hazelton. With New York chic modern interior design and a location in Yorkville, this would be a hip place to stay when shooting your next film in Canada or when you have some killer seats for a Leafs game.
Where the Hazelton goes over-the-top is with their screening room. Designed by Simply Home Entertainment of Beverly Hills, this 35-millimeter theater is packed with seating for over 20, mohair fabric walls that hide pro acoustical treatments, Blu-ray video, surround sound via a Sunfire preamp, Meyer Sound speakers and much more. There are private screenings for films, sporting events and beyond.
Cinema Paridiso at Las Ventanas in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico
Las Ventanas is a 72-room resort located in San Jose Del Cabo. From the minute they pick you up at the airport in an E-class or G-wagon Mercedes to arriving at a gate-guarded property with no sign, you know this place is pretty special. Five-star service, a world-class spa and whale watching in the winter are only the start to what you get for your hard-earned vacation dollars.
Where Las Ventanas goes over the top for home theater enthusiasts is with their private Cinema Paridiso events. Upon booking in advance, the ultra-attentive staff will build you an on-the-sand beach theater, complete with a 50-to-60-plus-inch flat HDTV and Blu-ray player to screen a movie under the beaming stars. With nightly temps in the 70-degree range, you can earn some serious romance points with this relatively reasonable add-on to a Mexican vacation.
Amanyara, Turks and Caicos
One savvy travel expert described the global chain of Aman Resorts by saying, "Aman Resorts make The Four Seasons look like a Motel 6." While that might be a bit of an exaggeration, it's safe to say that the Aman chain has some of the most dramatic hotel properties around the world, with locations in China, India, Jackson Hole and beyond. Their relatively new property in the Caribbean island chain of Turks and Caicos brings Phillipe Starck modern design and a Zen-centric feel to an ultra-luxury property located easily 40 minutes into a nature reserve. Guests arrive in Range Rovers and are greeted with island hospitality, thanks to a staff that is partly comprised of locals and partly of well-traveled Aman employees from their properties around the world. The property boasts a gorgeous library, meditation areas and reflecting ponds, but when you've had enough of getting your Zen on, Amanyara has a full screening room for your enjoyment. Pick up the phone, book some time in the theater and you can screen movies on a large-screen, stadium seating home (or hotel) theater that is larger and grander than most receiver-based theaters in our homes.
The Presidential Suite at the Venetian, Las Vegas
Most Vegas hotels do everything they can to keep you at the tables, including making sure that the standard-definition signal into your flat HDTV doesn't inspire you to stay at home. But for "whales" (the biggest of the high rollers), there is no luxury spared, including a massive home theater, including stadium seating, a front-projection system and full 5.1 surround sound. The Venetian offers their biggest players the chance to decompress after blowing hundreds of thousands of dollars at the tables by watching movies with Hollywood grandeur. Try to ignore the fact that you could have actually bought the entire home theater four times over for what was lost at the tables. Then again, billion-dollar properties aren't built on people winning millions every day.
Even in a deep recession, consumer electronics and home theater continue to be popular. The trend of hotels offering everything from B&W Zeppelins to iPod docks to bigger and bigger HDTVs in your room is likely to continue. The same goes with purpose-built home theaters. For hotels, renting out a screening room is a lucrative use of floor space and can lure more business for catering, more room bookings and beyond. For those of us not in the hotel business, we get a chance to experience home theater and movie screenings as if we are executive producers on the Paramount lot when we are on vacation.