Home Movie Night in the 2020's


Reimagine Your Home Theater

Remember when home theater and surround sound was all the rage? Some families went in for the whole home theater experience with front speakers and rear speakers, and a big 40" tube television that took up half the family room. 

These days, you can create a more intimate and more technologically advanced home theater experience, getting you as close to the newest movie theater experience, even while staying comfortable and relaxed at home. 

If you're creating a home theater, there are a few things you'll need to give you the full experience, including the right furniture.

We also want to set up a few parameters for our home theater experience. Thanks to ever-shrinking technology, we want to keep things as minimalistic and streamlined as possible. Twenty or thirty years ago, you needed a surround sound receiver, a DVD player, VCR, several speakers, and a giant TV, not to mention shelves and shelves of DVDs. And that's on top of your audio equipment, including a CD player and tape deck.

These days, most of your content can come from a few sources so you only need a minimum number of components. You can design a basic home theater experience with just a few pieces to avoid cluttering up your living space. Here's what we recommend.


These days, every TV is a flat screen, not the giant monstrosities that needed a small army just to get into the house. Flat screens can hang on the wall, which eliminates the need for a TV stand or cabinet. All you need is a small shelf for your few components, and you're all set.

We like  Samsung televisions, and recommend one with 4K resolution. 

Regardless, you want a TV that fits your budget and fits your room. You don't want to get an 85" TV when there's only six feet between you and the screen, and you don't want a 32" screen when you're sitting 12 feet away either. A generally rule of thumb is multiple the screen size by 2 and that is the ideal distance the primary seat should be from the TV. You can also talk to one of our design experts.




AV Receivers

To give you the full surround sound experience, you need a surround sound A/V receiver. Of course, every audiophile has his or her own opinion on the matter, but we can help find a receiver that meets your budget, your listening preferences, and your specs requirements.

What you really need to look for is the kind of Dolby effects it supports, and the number of channels. The latest in movie technology is Dolby Atmos, a multi-channel surround sound experience.*

"Channel" is industry speak for "speakers." So a "5-channel receiver" supports 5 speakers. Most receivers are 5-channel, 7-channel, or 9-channel.

The different channels represent the different speaker. For example, a 5-channel receiver will support two front speakers, a center speaker, and two rear speakers. A 7-channel receiver also includes two side surround speakers. And a 9-channel receiver has four side surround speakers — two directly to your left and right, and two at a 45 degree angle in front of you.



What is Dolby Atmos?

When you go to an actual Dolby Atmos theater, there are as many as 64 speakers in the entire theater, so you've got sound coming at you from all angles — if there was a swarm of bees on the screen, it would sound like you were inside the swarm of bees.

Today's Dolby Atmos receivers are as small as 5.1.2, which means 5 surround channels, 1 subwoofer, and 2 ATMOS speakers, and are as large as 9.1.9, with 9 ATMOS channels. ATMOS speakers help project sound overhead. 



We know plenty of audiophiles who could recite speaker specs the same way baseball fanatics can recite a player's stats, so we're not going to recommend any particular brand of speakers, because there are so many great ones. (There are entire magazines dedicated to this issue.) If you're looking for a general home theater experience, you can often buy speakers as part of a home theater package.

But if you're looking for a true audio experience, do some research to find the speakers that will fit your home and lifestyle. There are big floor standing speakers, small bookshelf speakers, wall mounted speakers, and even in-wall/architectural speakers. There are also wired and wireless speakers, which could be important if you're trying to figure out how to manage all these speaker cables running across your floor.

As far as models of speakers go, there are plenty of great manufacturers. You'll want speakers that will fit your movie viewing and music listening habits, as well as actually fit inside your living space.



Of course, you need the right kind of furniture for a home theater. You can't just watch movies comfortably on a folding chair, and you can't cozy up with the family in an easy chair. The first thing you'll want is a sofa. Something that's soft enough to relax in but not so soft you can't get out of it either.

Also, consider getting a six foot couch that you can easily sleep on. If you remember back to those times when your mom fell asleep on the couch 20 minutes after movie night started, you'll know why. You may not actually sleep on the couch most nights, but those nights that you do, your neck and back shouldn't be pretzeled up for it.

Also, look at some end tables and a coffee table. You'll want a place for a side lamp, as well as a place to set your drinks and popcorn (and to prop your feet up).

Finally, you'll need something to hold the few electronic components you'll need to place under your TV. Get something that's small enough to look streamlined, but not so small to look out of place, You don't need something that takes up half your room space. Talk to a Parker Gwen design consultant for some ideas, if you need it, or check out our TV and media consoles.





Streaming Services and Hardware

Unlike 20 or 30 years ago, when you needed several different devices to watch your favorite movies, you can get by with two, one, or even no extra devices. Here are your options.

First of all, if you want to watch DVDs, get a Blu-Ray player. Blu-Ray discs have supplanted DVDs as the go-to physical media format. The resolution is much better and the cases are a lot smaller than DVD cases.

Next, if you want to use streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video, you'll need a streaming device. You can use Apple TV, Roku, Google Chromecast, or even an Amazon Fire Stick with voice assistance. (As a bonus, the Amazon Fire Stick can be controlled with your Alexa-enabled device. Same with Google Chromecast with Google Home and Nest) You can also buy movies from Apple and store them in the cloud, so you don't even need a Blu-Ray player.

Also, devices like Apple TV can also connect to your iTunes library, Spotify, or stream thousands of Internet radio stations from around the world, so you can skip the CD player.

However, you can skip the streaming device completely if you use a Blu-Ray player, which has streaming capabilities for most services.

And you can even skip the Blu-Ray player and go with streaming/online services only if you have a smart TV that offers Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. With one of these, you don't need any sort of streaming components. All you need is your TV, your AV receiver, and a few speakers around the room, and you've got the ultimate in minimalistic home theater.

If you would like some help in designing your home theater as well as some of the furnishings for your entertainment space, please call the design experts at Parker Gwen at support@parkergwen.com.


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