In just 95 seconds, Charles Falk can turn his ordinary living room into a cinema. He draws the curtains, pulls down a screen 8ft wide and points his remote control at the projector mounted on his ceiling. “Watch this,” he says, and half a second later Keanu Reeves tumbles across Falk’s wall, shooting up villains.
By day, Falk, 30, is a criminal barrister. In the evenings, and at weekends, he runs what he calls “the only cinema in the world that serves beer”, in his second-floor flat in north London. He watches alone, with his wife Penny, or at a pinch he can squeeze in 20 friends. Sometimes he withdraws, as when a friend wants to watch something quiet – possibly French – about relationships.
The admirable thing about Falk’s obsession is that he can’t easily afford it. He’s not some millionaire, idly chucking cash around. To spend £9,000 on his home cinema, he’s had to work hard, and make sacrifices. His motor, the rusting remnant of a Mini Metro, cost just £500. (Using that small car, Falk once retreived eight seats from a real cinema that was closing down – but they were horribly sticky, so he threw them away).
“Next,” he announces, “it’s got to be a bit of James Bond.” Putting away The Matrix, he plays the sensational opening, on the Thames, from The World Is Not Enough. Then a bit of Star Wars – “I must have seen that tape 100 times. I’m desperately waiting for it to come out on DVD” – a video-tape of EastEnders, and the closing minutes of Liverpool v Benfica, live on Channel 5. (The projector also relays TV programmes.)
Having dealt with the visuals, Falk demonstrates the system’s audio qualities with a five-second demo for Dolby Digital. One plangent chord chases another round the speakers in each corner of the room. “Cool! Shall we do that again?” he asks, without waiting for an answer.
The Financial Times has another suggestion: Jurassic Park. Even with the volume low – at four out of ten – mighty vibrations traverse the floor. But Falk doesn’t seem to notice, says he needs yet another speaker. “I need a sub-woofer, so that you can really feel the shake in the puddle [on-screen] when T-Rex approaches.” His neighbours, yet to complain, may have other ideas.
388 words. First published 26 August 00. © FT Magazine