10 Essentials for Building a Home Theater Room

Dina Cheney
Written by Dina Cheney
Updated December 21, 2021
A family watching a movie at home
Photo: JenkoAtaman / Adobe Stock

Go to the movies without leaving home

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Imagine bringing the glamour and excitement of the cinema to your living space. To make this dream scenario a reality, create a home theater room—a dedicated space for your Star Wars marathons and Harry Potter weekends. Whether you retrofit an existing room or plan space in a new build, read on for what you need for the ultimate at-home moviegoing experience. 

1. The Right Space

Pick a room large enough to accommodate a big screen and enough seating. The space should be dark (ideally with no windows and only one or two doors) and as soundproof as possible. A high ceiling is ideal for mounting projectors (since they produce heat and noise, you’ll want them high above your head).

2. Wiring

You’ll need to bring in a local theater installation professional or skilled electrician near you to run wiring throughout your home theater space. Consider hiding as much as you can behind walls and under a soffit

3. Soundproofing

Consider working with a local soundproofing company. They might add a second layer of drywall with a 4-inch gap of “dead” space in between. You can also install sound-reducing wallboard or acoustic wall panels. Don’t forget to also swap hollow-core doors for solid doors and to put in wall-to-wall carpeting with a pad underneath (which will cut down on audio-bounce). 

4. Lighting

Stray light washes out pictures. So, you’ll want to remove all sources of ambient light with blackout curtains and shades. To further cut down on glare, paint the walls and ceiling a dark color with an eggshell or flat finish. 

But because you do need light, try a combination of rope lights, dimmers, recessed lights, and sconces. Consider hiding the rope lights in a soffit and placing most lights behind your seating. This way, they won’t add glare.

5. Surround Sound

Your system will likely consist of five full-range speakers and a woofer (low-range specialist). Place the woofer and three of the speakers towards the front of the theater and the remaining two speakers on both sides and a bit behind the seats. Ask a professional surround sound installer near you which system will work best in your space.

6. Comfortable Seating

In-Home Theater
Photo: Artserstudio / Adobe Stock

Go for stadium or lounge seating with low backs. To give all seats an equally clear view of the screen, use risers to elevate the rear seats 6 or more inches. Along with being practical, tiered seating will also lend your space the look of an actual movie theater. 

7. A/V Rack

You’ll need an audio-visual component rack with devices for streaming content from multiple sources, including the Internet, portable devices, cameras, cable and satellite services, broadcast TV, Blu-Ray discs, and DVDs and CDs. Your system will likely include a Blu-Ray player, cable box, receivers and gaming consoles, home theater tuner, and network media streaming box.

Since these components produce heat, make sure to ventilate them well. Choose a strong metal rack that’s open in the front and back, and house it in a closet or cabinet.

8. TV or Projector and Screen

Choose between a high-definition flat-screen TV or a video projector and screen. The projector and screen combo is a more professional setup and will better simulate the movie theater experience. Plus, if you opt for a retractable screen, it can disappear into the ceiling when you’re not watching movies or TV. To help you figure out which screen size will work best in your room, use a viewing distance calculator.

9. Universal Remote Control

Forget a confusing pile of remotes, each for a specific system. Instead, look for a device that can control everything from viewing to lighting, heating, and cooling. 

10. Extras

For a classic movie theater experience, add a popcorn maker and drink dispenser, and consider covering the walls in red velvet. You can even put up vintage movie posters. Just try to avoid framing them under glass, since it could reflect both light and sound.

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