Home Improvements

Home Cinemas For The Rest of Us

The first time I ever saw a home cinema I was 16 years old and visiting the house of a very wealthy friend of my mothers. I was astonished to see a mini cinema with a huge screen just like in our local “pictures” as cinemas were often referred to in the UK back then, rows of seats laid out in the same elevated fashion as the cinema, and even a well-stocked bar in the corner, which our cinemas did not have, we had to make do with the “ice cream lady who appeared during the intermission with a polystyrene box holding ice creams hung from her neck. As a child, it was my ambition to become an ice cream lady at the pictures, but anyway, I digress.

These days, home cinemas are not so rare, although I have yet to see one quite as grandiose as my initial introductions to home cinemas, but a home cinema does not have to cost a bundle.

However, diving into the world of home movie entertainment can be overwhelming unless you are an expert on media equipment. I am no specialist, but somewhat knowledgeable; I had to educate myself on such matters as the mother of teenagers who until they recently upped and left home, were always badgering us for the latest gadgets that they absolutely COULD NOT SURVIVE WITHOUT.

Magazines, Internet forum users and the home theatre industry can be helpful, but they can also confound your mind with conflicting advice. But putting together a home theatre doesn’t have to be a complicated project.

If you visit your local media store, which in the UK would likely be Currys, PC World or perhaps John Lewis, you will find the sales people are skilled at showing buyers some fabulous HDTVs, audio equipment and accessories with the latest technology available on the market. They do a good job in steering you into purchasing some stunning equipment. But most of us have to make a living and often do not want, or cannot affotd to spend that kind of money. And honestly, it’s really not necessary.

New Times In Home Theatre

Like in local showrooms, if you scan the glossy pages of almost any home theatre magazine, article, you will be hit with a barrage of awesome pictures of elaborate home cinema set-ups and expensive equipment. Just as car magazines will flaunt beautiful photos of pieces of metal on rubber, home theatre magazines show how nice one’s private movie den could be, at a price.

I guess many readers will sigh and fish out their wallet, thinking that maybe breaking out their credit card for a new 65-inch HDTV screen might bring happiness into their lives. Wow, they say, football would look ace on 65-inches of HD real estate. It sure beats the old 13-inch black-and-white television many of us recall from our youth.

But like a car, it’s not always necessary to buy the deluxe model. The base model, or even middle model, can still be very nice. Many lower priced models of televisions, for instance, may carry the same parts as their higher priced peers. Often, the only difference is the size of the screen. Besides, the reason for a car is to get from Point A to Point B. The same can be said for a home cinema. The reason for home theatre is to provide entertainment through great movies.

This is the age of technical marvels and there is no doubt home entertainment systems have never been better. I am old enough to remember the days when the more fortunate among us were able to buy a VCR with very questionable picture and sound quality, which would be hooked up to a bulky tube television and play a rented a videotape. Those days are long gone. Just to be a part of the 21st century, one has to buy a DVD player, huge widescreen TV, and at least have a Sky, BT or Netflix subscription just to be relevant.

How times have changed. In the 1980s, when VHS tape dominated the home movie entertainment landscape. Now, in the 21st century, high definition Blu-ray discs are the go-to choice for storing media, but that really isn’t necessary as you can stream just about any show or movie you want to see over the internet for a reasonable monthly fee.

In the process of home theatre evolution, as consumers, we are encouraged to upgrade our television screens, subscribe to satellite TV services, and buy expensive audio receivers. Some homeowners have even built extensions or converted the loft to create a dedicated home theatre rooms.

This can get very expensive.

For those who don’t want to spend too much money, but still want a bang for their buck, there are ways to build a great home theatre on a budget. All that is needed is a little bit of patience, a little bit of time to shop for great deals, and a modest budget.

 Building A Home Theater With A Reasonable Budget

This is written with the approach of building a home cinema from scratch, but many of the suggestions can be used to upgrade current home theatre installations.

To build a home cinema from scratch, and when upgrading, it’s always recommended to have a well-thought-out plan in hand and to stick to it. Figure out what pieces of equipment are needed. It doesn’t have to be done on a spreadsheet or be so elaborate you get lost in the details. Try to keep it simple.

I recommend you set your budget and stick to it. It’s easy to walk into a store and be drawn to the brightest HDTV display, or be blown over by speakers and how they sound. You need to take into account how the equipment will look in your home – a huge HDTV may look amazing in the large store, but find it is really too big once you get it home. I should add that while a budget is a cornerstone of building a home theater you will be delighted with, it may sometimes be necessary to spend a little extra than you originally plan. You may want to get a slightly bigger HDTV screen or upgrade to a slightly more powerful audio receiver or amplifier than that on your list. It’s okay to allocate a bit more if desired, but my advice is to always keep in mind the original budget and stay as close to it as possible.

What’s Needed For A Home Cinema

A home cinema should include:

  • A 42 (minimum) to 50-inch screen HDTV
  • Receiver with HDMI input/output jacks
  • Speakers
  • Subwoofer
  • Blu-ray player (which also plays DVDs)
  • The necessary cables
  • Digital or satellite service (think Netflix, BT, Virgin Media or Sky)
  • Home theatre seating (if your budget allows if not comfy armchairs or a sofa will do just fine)
  • A dedicated space in your home
  • Popcorn and drinks supply


There it is. Now it’s a matter of planning and shopping, then putting it together. It will be work, but if you are a movie lover, most definitely worth the investment and effort!