CE Pro’s Original Top 10: Theo Kalomirakis, TK Theaters
Eight years ago we published a list of the 10 most influential leaders in the custom installation industry. Today's spotlight: Theo Kalomirakis of TK Theaters.
In 2004 CE Pro published a list of the top 10 most influential industry leaders from the previous decade, in celebration of the 10-year anniversary of EH Publishing, the parent company of CE Pro, Electronic House and others.
In 2013, we are celebrating the 20-year anniversary of CE Pro, the first issue of which appeared as an insert in a 1993 issue of Electronic House. The following is a tribute we wrote in the October 2004 issue of CE Pro, honoring these contributions of these 10 leaders.
In 2004, our Top 10 of the decade were:
Sam Runco, Runco
Tom Doherty, Doherty Design Group
Jeremy Burkhardt, SpeakerCraft
Joel Silver, Imaging Science Foundation (ISF)
Doug Fikse, OnQ/Legrand
Jay McLellan, Home Automation Inc. (HAI)
Ivan Zuckerman, Niles Audio
Jeff Hoover, Audio Advisors (now Ask the Advisors)
Theo Kalomirakis, TK Theaters
George Feldstein, Crestron
In the next couple of weeks, we’ll resurrect our write-ups on each of these industry leaders.
“Trying to sell prefabricated theaters. Our core business is architecture and custom design—not manufacturing and selling products.” - Theo Kalomirakis on worst business decision (pictured in 2005)
FLASHBACK: OCTOBER 2004
Theo Kalomirakis, TK Theaters
Home Theater Visionary
He’s a film maker, graphic artist, and movie reviewer, but to us he’s the home theater guy. Since Theo Kalomirakis created his own home theater in 1988, he’s been designing similar spaces for rich and famous people around the globe.
His gems are featured in every magazine that matters, and his creations often copied by lesser designers. The big mistake they make, he says, is, “They go for the design and disrespect functionality.”
Kalomirakis is no A/V guru, but after 16 years in the business, he knows how to make a room where movies look and sound terrific. “The reason we’re doing better than anyone else is not that we’re more talented, but because we focus on theaters,” he says. “We’re not distracted by other things. When you do something over and over, you learn from your mistakes.”
Thus, Kalomirakis knows where surround-sound speakers go, how to arrange seating for optimal viewing, and which fabrics enhance a room’s acoustics. Even so, he makes it clear that his company, TK Theaters, is not an A/V installer. “Our only involvement in the A/V field is to seamlessly integrate the custom installer’s electronic equipment choices into an acoustic environment that we design,” reads the company Web site.
So why is a glorified architect/interior designer on a list of leaders in the custom-installation field? His masterpieces have inspired a generation of consumers to invest in home theaters—maybe not the million-dollar jobs that Kalomirakis designs, but at least a large-screen television and a surround-sound system, in other words, the type of job that makes “regular” integrators rich.
“Seeing pictures of some of the work that Theo did in the earliest magazines is what inspired me to do my first home theater and to get into that business,” says Jeff Hoover, founder of Audio Advisors, a successful integration company based in West Palm Beach, Fla. “Doing that first home theater had a dramatic impact on our ability to get into the home systems business, and it had a huge influence on who we are today.”
Much has changed since those early days. Kalomirakis admits that some of his first designs were “tacky.” He says, “I was more intent on trying to emulate what was done in movie theaters than to try to find my own language.”
That “language” has evolved over the years. Kalomirakis now defines his style as “a lack of style.” That’s a far cry from the 1990s, when customers typically selected from one of two designs: deco or classical.
Lately Kalomirakis has tended toward the contemporary, indulging most recently in minimalist work, as he puts it, “anything that lacks ornamentation, that doesn’t drip with heavy details … maybe even no curves, no color.”
Thankfully, today’s technology enables such designs. “DLP projectors, bless them, means we can remove fixed throw projectors from the ceilings and the floors where they take up seat space,” says Kalomirakis. “We can now put them in the back of the room where they belong. That has been the biggest advance in technology in terms of aesthetics.”
Why he’s a Top 10 Leader: To some, he may be a glorified architect/interior designer, but to the home systems industry Kalomirakis is the single person that turned the world on to dedicated home theaters. Although few can afford his super-high-end theaters, many consumers have at least been inspired to invest in professionally installed home theater systems.
Bio: Born in Athens Greece, Kalomirakis studied film and television at New York University. He worked as an art director for Time Warner and Forbes Magazines before launching his own company in 1989 designing private theaters. Many of his works are featured in the book, “Theo Kalomirakis Private Theaters.”
Best business decision: Leaving my day job as a magazine art director to start TK Theaters in 1990
Worst business decision: Trying to sell prefabricated theaters. Our core business is architecture and custom design—not manufacturing and selling products.
Key opportunities and challenges moving forward: Expanding our area of expertise into thematic architecture for private use. Most of the population will see movies in a media room or family room. The biggest untapped field is accessorizing these media rooms.
Favorite book: Anything that is not fiction. I am mostly interested in reading biographies of individuals in the entertainment business.
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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