"Generally, we don't eat doughnuts in here," laughs Joan Winchell, as she opens a door to the intimate home theater that she and doughnut magnate husband Verne christened "The Bijou" because "it reminds me of a little jewel." One peek inside the 400-square-foot screening room and it's obvious why cruller consumption is frowned upon. This is no TV den.
Retractable brass and wood-inlaid doors modeled after those housing the Chrysler Building's elevator hide a 9-by-7 screen. Fabric patterned with a Frank Lloyd Wright design covers the walls. The six theater seats, custom made in plush suede, recline and feature Art Deco-inspired panels with built-in cup holders and soft lights to read programs by.
The Bijou is the handiwork of New York-based private theater design guru Theo Kalomirakis (who's created mini-Loews for the likes of Eddie Murphy and Cal Ripken Jr.) and L.A. sculptor Frank Gallagher. If not for the custom work, the Winchells' screening room would have cost $60,000; with it, let's just say it was a bit more.
The Winchells--Verne opened his first doughnut shop in Temple City in 1948 but was bought out in 1984 and now breeds and races horses--added the screening room to their six-acre San Marino estate to avoid "crowds, uncomfortable seats and sticky floors," Joan says. Not to mention those high-priced Goobers. "I bring my own snacks when I go out to the movie theater with my nephews," she admits.
Robert's Home Audio and Video in L.A. installed the Bijou's equipment: a Runco IDP980 front projector, JBL Synthesis II Digital AC-3 Sound System--including left, center and right channel speakers, and two 15-inch subwoofers, a Toshiba DVD, a Mitsubishi VHS and a Draper screen. One touch of the button on a computerized smart box and the lights dim, doors retract and credits roll.
"The equipment room used to be a closet that held my gowns," says Joan, who counts "Moonstruck" and historical documentaries among her film picks. For the king of the custard-filled empire, however, " 'Casablanca' is my favorite," Verne says. "But you can't beat the older violent movies like 'Terminator' for the sound of the explosions."