The streets of California are quiet these days as residents safely isolate themselves from the outside world. Making the quarantine a little bit less painful, a coveted group of Hollywood insiders are enjoying the ultra-exclusive Bel Air Circuit, a private movie distribution service offered to the wealthy. It was created to allow movie moguls the opportunity to screen the newest blockbusters in their private home screening rooms. The invite-only $100,000 buy-in and $4,000 monthly service provides its wealthy members a popular alternative to visiting public theaters.
With the prolific entertainment options available On Demand and with Netflix and Amazon, the rest of us can now enjoy the privilege of watching new theatrical releases. With the current Coronavirus pandemic forcing the public to stay at home, we are consuming more content than ever before, but for the rich and famous with private screening rooms in their homes, the experience is better than going to the neighborhood movie houses.
Home designers and architects have been incorporating extravagant private screening rooms into large mansions for years, and the trend is growing so fast that real estate agents are finding buyers expect the luxury amenity in all new builds.
Jade Mills is one of Hollywood’s most famous luxury estate realtors, and she tells me, “Homes over $10 million are where you normally find a great screening room. Lately buyers are looking for theaters that are comfortable. One of my listings is on a lower level with a gym, bar, and wine cellar attached to the screening room. Families are looking for spaces where they can spend time together, and I think that this whole pandemic has made us more conscious of really not spending a lot of time with our family.”
Luxury estate realtor Aaron Kirman has seen a significant increase in customer demand for these luxury build-outs and says, “The home theaters are the main components in a luxury sale right now. People love that escapism, and it’s been one of the main features for years, but they have certainly gotten bigger and better, and the money that people are spending on them is outrageous. What we are seeing as a trend is that people want to make their theaters more informal and make it super loungey.”
Private cinema designer Lisa Slayman of Laguna Beach, California based Slayman Cinema creates stunning and often outrageous theaters in unique, high-performing entertainment environments for private residences. She explains the popularity of the desire for screening rooms at home, “Historically, a home theater was designed as a room dedicated to one thing and one thing only: watching movies. What’s become increasingly common are home theaters that facilitate other forms of recreation. For many families, a multipurpose entertainment area makes a lot of sense. They may not have the free space or the funds to allocate a large chunk of their homes to movie viewing, so designing the room to accommodate other activities—watching sporting events, playing video games, listening to music, practicing yoga, you name it—offers more bang for their buck. Rather than outfit the space with stadium-style seating, for example, it’s become more important to provide large, open floor space for exercising and interactive gaming.”
Among Slayman’s extravagant home theater projects is a Saudi Palace in Riyadh for a member of the Royal Family with an opulent designed subterranean home theater. Special custom features include a separate lobby with a concession stand, an Art Deco marquee, Ebony Italian millwork, illuminated Amethyst stones, and Swarovski crystals woven into the wool and silk carpeting and tufted velvet of the back wall.
The award-winning Lady Luck Theater in Laguna Beach includes Damask fabric with Swarovski crystal inlays, a lobby with full-motion movie posters, balcony, and main auditorium to seat as many as 45 people. The 18-foot-wide screen offers a 3D projection system. Total cost for the project is around $3.5 million and took four years to complete.
The Seaside Estate Theater in California was inspired by the owner’s fond childhood memories and converted a subterranean space into a replica of a street in Charleston, West Virginia. Leading to the Art Deco-inspired cinema are a café, jewelry store, automobile showroom, and bowling alley.
The Shady Canyon Theater project in California was inspired by the 1928 Byrd Theater in Shady Canyon. This 8-seat French empire design theater includes an intricate oval ceiling motif with walnut millwork and gold leaf accents, a Czechoslovakian crystal chandelier, and a 110-inch screen.
The $2 million West Los Angeles Theater project features a 17th century Spanish, Moorish gothic design. There is a custom Mudejar ceiling with back-lit leaded glass, 150 hand-painted panels and back-lit leaded glass. The arches on the back and side walls are framed in wrought iron and hide 28 speakers behind woven horse hair fabric.
For those wishing to add an estate with a luxury screening room to their portfolio or for inspiration here are the top homes for sale in Los Angeles offering stunning private home theaters.
642 Perugia Way, Los Angeles ($35.5 million)
The lower level of this estate offers expansive space for entertaining, leisure, and recreation featuring a billiards and game lounge with bar, glass-enclosed temperate-controlled wine storage, large gym and yoga area with full bathroom, and a fully equipped movie theater.
277 St. Pierre Rd. Hollywood Hills ($46 million)
This regal compound is like a private resort. On the lower level is a 20,000 square foot entertainment space that includes an indoor full resort spa and pool, with massage room, sauna and steam bath, game rooms, bowling alley, an expansive cinema, full bar, basketball, and racquetball court.
1475 Bel Air Rd. Los Angeles ($16,899 million)
This brand new estate was perfectly designed for entertaining with a lower level offering a lit onyx bar, movie theater with fiber optic star ceiling, video wall, gym, and wine cellar.
1 West Century Dr PH 40, Los Angeles ($35 million)
This luxurious penthouse owned by actor Matthew Perry occupies the entire 40th floor of the building and features a sumptuous private screening room.
16388 Shadow Mountain Dr, Pacific Palisades ($14,950,000)
This magnificent Mediterranean villa currently owned by a Hollywood producer offers expansive ocean view grounds and a stunning private screening room.
17536 Camino De Yatasto, Pacific Palisades ($6,000,000)
The largest home for sale in the guard-gated Palisades Country Estates, includes a tennis court, pool with waterfall, and a cozy screening room (which could also be used as a music studio).
3381 Stone Ridge Ln, Los Angeles, CA 90077 $10,995,000
This large contemporary home includes a grand screening room, office, and two guest/staff/bonus rooms in the downstairs level.
1940 Bel Air Rd, Los Angeles $25,000,000
This stunning villa is an entertainers paradise on its lower level, with indoor pool/spa, large home theater, billiard room, climate-controlled wine cellar, and subterranean garage.
9555 Heather Rd, Beverly Hills ($120,000 monthly rental)
Maison Roger is a gated compound originally built by Paul Williams in 1941 and now owned by a fashion mogul. Offering a media room in the main house and a separate entertainment structure overlooking the tennis court with a vintage bowling alley that opens to a billiard and game room, and VIP bar.
1561 Blue Jay Way, Los Angeles ($17,995,000)
This modern view estate previously owned by restaurateur Harry Morton offers dramatic views as well as a state-of-the-art movie theater with curated wine cellar.
58 No. La Senda Drive, Laguna Beach ($31.9 million)
This magnificent coastal view home includes a wine cellar, poker space, and theater with a window to the garage for car worshiping, as well as multiple terraces and even a clifftop driving range platform.
1449 Bel Air Road, Los Angeles ($15.995 million)
This contemporary Tuscan estate includes a wine tasting room, private theater, and fitness area.