A new year is upon us, and so it’s finally time to take all of those dreams you’ve been putting on hold and put them into action. Naturally, that means 2014 must be the year of the home theater. You’ve gone long enough without a movie theater inside your home. Too many obnoxious moviegoers as well as access to smaller-budgeted first-run movies via streaming (and an overall decline in the quality of blockbuster flicks) have combined to make this all possible.
But before you can have a quality home theater, you’ve got to have the right tools in place. Here’s what we suggest picking up.
Movie Theater Carpet
Every great journey begins with a single step, and there’s nothing better than taking that step on a layer of genuine movie theater carpet. While tons of different styles are available, each has that cineplex texture that’ll make you feel like you’re attending a Saturday matinee right insider of your home. The only difference: no gum or hardened candy stuck to the fibers. We recommend a specialty dealer like CinemaShop.com for shopping and comparing.
Pristine Picture Quality
The video quality of a motion picture has come a long way at home or in theaters, and the improvements can be summed up in a few letters: H. D. T. V. You can go two ways with your picture quality. We recommend a minimum of 60 inches in diagonal screen size. Either go the TV route with a Panasonic 65-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma ($2,295) or upscale quality and size with a BenQ W1070 ($799), which can take your 1080p clear up to 200 inches in diagonal screen size.
Enormous DVD collections were cool in the ’90s and the first part of this century. They’re quickly going the way of the dodo thanks to streaming media. For incorporating a media player into your home theater, you won’t do better than Apple TV ($99) and Roku 3 ($98). Apple TV allows for PC/tablet/phone mirroring through the AirPlay function. It also delivers superior quality and sound on a stunning user interface. Meanwhile, Roku 3 brings home the digital goods on quality and gives box owners hundreds and hundreds of specialty channels, many of which are free. They each have their ups with few-if-any downs. If you’re more heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, then advantage goes to Apple TV, but the boxes are interchangeable when it comes to an awesome experience.
With your subscription to services like Netflix, Hulu, and Redbox Instant as well as pay-per-view labels like Vudu, iTunes, and M-GO, you can get thousands of movies in HD quality delivered affordably to your screen. You can also rip your DVD collection to an external hard drive and then mirror that to either box via clients like Plex. This is an especially useful hack if space is getting more and more limited.
7.1 Surround Sound
If the goal is to recreate the cinema experience at home, then no movie theater is complete without the right sound. And to get that, you’re going to need more than a puny mono or 2.0 setup. That’s where high quality 7.1 surround sound systems like the Onkyo SKS-HT540 ($320) come in handy. This system boasts 130 watts total output on 2-way bass reflex front, center, and surround speakers. The front and center 2-way speakers feature 5-inch diaphragm woofers and a 1-inch balanced floating tweeter. The bass reflex powered subwoofer puts out 230 watts of machismo and includes a 10-inch cone driver. Translation: your dog will be going berserk every other minute.
What’s a trip to the movies without refreshments — particularly chocolate and popcorn? We don’t have to tell you where to go to load up on the former. You’ve got that figured out. However, when it comes to popcorn, nothing gets the job done better than the oil-based Stir Crazy Popcorn Maker ($131) from WESTBEND. This machine looks like it was taken straight from behind the counter of your local cineplex, so not only does it deliver amazing buttery goodness — you do like butter, right? — but it also adds to the atmosphere of what you’re hoping to accomplish with a home theater project. The last thing we’d consider adding (just to keep the drinks cold): a Frigidaire FFHB2740PS 26.7-cubic foot stainless steel French door refrigerator ($1,600).
Vintage Movie Posters And Decorations
Websites like AllPosters.com can connect you to some vintage movie posters that will really take your home theater to the next level. As you can see from the image above, they go back quite a ways. However, you can also get some sweet decor from the latest and greatest. This is your opportunity to really make your theater take on a life of its own by tailoring it to your personal film tastes.
The final piece of the puzzle is lighting. For this, you won’t want to go with a light switch and a 60-watt bulb. No no no no! Instead vary up the colors and intensity with “smart lights.” We recommend the Philips Hue Personal Wireless Lighting System ($200), which you can control entirely from your smartphone or tablet.