The theatre business always has to fight to keep our interest. Whenever home entertainment matches what theaters offer they have to step up their game. They’ve tried making theater screens wider and wider. Then, when we got 16:9 widescreen at home the theaters brought in anamorphic screens. We’ve had 3D a couple of times in the theatre, but it seems people care for it as little at the movies as they do at home.

Today there are fewer reasons than ever not to simply stay at home. Our TVs and sound systems are better than ever. The only thing that’s still in favor of big theatres is their monopoly on release dates. Things are changing however, thanks to digital distribution. Some day in the not-so-distant future movies may release worldwide immediately, so it makes sense to set up space in your home that makes the best of modern movie magic.

While it’s perfectly OK to slap a flat screen on the wall, get a great soundbar and call it a day, having a dedicated home theater is something different, it turns the experience of a movie into something special and private. The thing is, there are a hundred different ways you can go about making theater magic happen in your home. These are just a few of the most awesome ones.

The Quick and Dirty Theater

When you think “home theater” the very next thought is probably “expensive”. The thing is, that doesn’t have to be the case. You can create a theater experience without the best AV equipment. In fact, if you already have a flat screen TV and a sound bar you can get close to that theater experience with things that are neither audio nor video.

Rather, invest in some thick drapes, a decent carpet and a set of cinema-esque recliners. You know, the ones that have cup-holders and a console. You’ll find your sound improved with the treatment the rugs and drapes give the room and the comfortable seating makes any viewing a pleasure.

The theater experience is more than just the combination of screen and speakers. I think you’ll be surprised how a few small changes to your entertainment area can transform even modest equipment into something special.

The Hidden Theater

Our entertainment and living spaces are dominated by big-screen televisions, speakers, and the other common electronic devices. Which is all fine, but when you’re not actually using this stuff you have to admit they sort of spoil the coziness of your living room.

Which is why one of my absolute favorite ideas is the “hidden” home theater. The main trick here is to use a motorized mount for your TV which moves it into place. This can be up from a recess behind or inside a cabinet. Another popular way to do it is by embedded the TV in the wall and then having a sliding door reveal it at the press of a button.

By using good wire porting or wireless speakers you can also squirrel the audio equipment away so that it’s not obvious at first glance that the room is rigged for audio.

The ultimate form of this for me is when combined with home automation. If you’ve got the technical chops it’s possible to rig a system where the whole room transforms into a theater, with motorized drapes and mounts for your various entertainment goodies.

The Projected Theater

I know, we’re all about the fancy LED LCD or OLED TVs these days. Sadly plasmas seem to be long gone now, but have you thought about using actual projection for your theater?

You can get decent HD projects for a reasonable price these days and if you’re willing to splash a bit of cash the systems on offer are the best way to have a true theater feeling at home.

For one thing, nothing beats projection for screen size. Even if you were a millionaire and money was no object the absolutely biggest TV you can buy tops out at 262 inches and that’s if you can stomach the $539 000 prices. Yikes.

Yes, TVs are always going to be better for daylight-viewing, but we’re building a darkened theater here. Getting a picture to fill a wall is cheapest using projection technology.

You can even paint a wall with a special projector paint, getting rid of the whole screen hassle in one go. Modern LED projectors also take the worries about lamp life down by an order of magnitude, not to mention the noise!

Be sure to check out my article on the Best Projectors Under $200 for a great budget-oriented home theater.

The Themed Theater


So Mr. Gates or perhaps Master Bruce, you’ve got an extra room in your mansion and simply no idea what to do with it, right? Well, why not go the whole hog and build an extravagant themed home theater?

How about this absolutely nutso $1.5m Star Trek Home Theater? Although these days you just need a few hundred bucks to live out those Trekker fantasies.

One batty gentleman topped that figure by blowing $2m on a proper Batcave Batman theater. Clearly, he’s no Joker.

I guess there are more affordable ways to build a themed theater, but frankly, after seeing these two overcompensators it feels a little futile.

The Virtual Theater

These days there’s another way to get the theater experience at home. All you need is a VR headset, often a mobile one will do, and a comfortable chair.

For example, the Samsung Galaxy Gear VR system gives you access to a lovely virtual home theater, without having to really spend any money apart from the Gear VR and compatible phone. It also means you can bring your “theater” to places like hotels. It’s not just Netflix content either, there are plenty of third-party apps that will play any video you give them, even in 3D!

Except, no one cares about 3D. I did mention that before, right?