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Home Theater Reinvents The Living Room

It may be time to rethink "living room." It's an idea that started in the 1800s as a place where you "live," that is, you sit around and entertain guests, talk with your family, read books and sip tea. But they didn't have 1,080 blazing pixels per square inch of the sharpest TV, sports, games and movies you ever dreamed of with ear-drenching surround sound — and that's why the living room is becoming the entertainment room.

Or vice versa. Maybe it's that the home theater room is becoming where we "live." And where we throw HTPs (Home Theater Parties), inviting gaggles of friends over for an afternoon of beer, chips and football so loud, big and up close that you're afraid you might get a dislocated collarbone out of the deal.

Or maybe it's a "girl's night" with a pitcher of cosmopolitans, a romantic comedy and — pause the movie — catching up on the latest chat. For kids, maybe it's an afternoon of snacks and Halo-3, the latest game craze.

You get 100 high-definition channels off the cable or dish, of course, and all the radio stations, not to mention music channeled from your CD and DVD player to your 5-point-1 or 7-point-1. (That means your five or seven sound-surround speakers plus the subwoofer.) If you're watching a train roar by, you actually hear it go from the right to the left.

For Michael and Christina Johnson and their kids, of Jacksonville, Oregon, the whole system, crowned by a 46-inch Sony LCD flat screen, is controlled by a Logitech remote that lets them fast forward through commercials, stop a show, pick it up later where they left off and, with just a few clicks, program and store any show for future viewing.

"You never have to get up," says Christina. "It's amazing. You're more able to sit down with the family, enjoy the surround sound and basically have a big, free theater experience in your own home, without the crowds and the waiting in line."

Mike admits the nearly $11,000 system was a guy thing. "I love having options, getting the best of the best and keeping up with the latest technology."

Christina nods. "I let him go for it and research everything. I love it. I was blown away, frankly. I enjoy it every day, every time I have the opportunity to sit down."

The big debate among home theater buffs is about LCD versus plasma screen. Mike went with LCD — liquid crystal display. It has a longer life and doesn't dim when light hits it or when you view from off to the side, he says. Plasma doesn't last as long and dims from the side, but, being a sports fan, he admits that plasma captures action better.

The home theater shopper should be cautioned that Mike's is one of many opinions and you don't have to look far to find the opposite take on LCD or plasma.

In the see-saw battle between quality and cost, says Kelley Boswell of Circuit City in Medford, "plasma has better clarity but LCD is half the cost, with about the same lifespan."

"What the hot tub was to the '70s, the home theater is to the 21st century and, for guests who've never really sat and watched one (except in a showroom), they really enjoy it. No one knew it was that big and impressive," says M.J. Lachenmeier, representative for Larson's Home Furnishings in Medford, whose system came with a $4,500 price tag.

"I remember the big eyes of my wife and kids when I brought it home. They love it. And the surround sound is good and crisp," says Lachenmeier. "If you're home a lot, it provides good entertainment and music and pays for itself with saved movie rentals."

The systems go as high as 60 inches at $7,500 for a Pioneer Elite plasma system. The demand, he adds, is steady and strong — a couple of them sell each week.

So, if you want to be the first on your block to have one, this could be the time.

Ah, movies and popcorn. It's a hard combination to beat. But we wanted something that had the great taste of popcorn with a delicious new spin on it. How about movies, popcorn and biscotti - all rolled into one? Perfect for dipping in coffee or just munching on throughout the show.

Popcorn Biscotti

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour, plus more for shaping

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 cups freshly popped popcorn

1/2 cup raisins, currants or chopped, dried

apricots, optional

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray; set aside.
  • Beat eggs and vanilla together in a large mixing bowl. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir flour mixture thoroughly into egg mixture. Stir in popcorn and raisins, if desired (dough will be sticky).
  • Spread a little flour on a work surface. Turn dough out onto work surface and divide into 3 equal pieces. Sprinkle flour over dough as needed to prevent sticking and roll each piece of dough into a log about 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. Transfer logs to baking sheets, allowing space between for spreading.
  • Bake 30 minutes and remove from oven (do not turn off oven). Allow cookie logs to cool about 5 minutes and transfer to cutting surface. Cut logs diagonally into 1/2-inch slices.

Place cookies back on baking sheets in a single layer. Return cookies

to oven and bake 20 minutes, turning cookies over after 10 minutes.

Cool cookies on racks and store in an airtight container.

Home Theater Reinvents The Living Room