Build a movie theater in your home.
Ever since I became a homeowner, I have dreamed about having a movie theater in my house. But they can be costly. The average price of a movie theater room can range up to $30,000. So naturally, my goal is to do it for a lot less than that. Let’s break down the basics of what you will need for a home theater room and see how it goes price-wise.
Here is how to build a home movie theater for as little as $2000.
Projector or TV in a Theater Room?
Depending on the size of the room and what you are trying to achieve, this decision will likely be a cost choice based on size. While LED TVs have come down in price a lot, getting a LED tv over 75 inches is still going to cost you thousands of dollars. At the same time, a video projector and screen can be significantly less.
So let’s assume you go with buying a projector route as we did for your theater project.
Adding a movie theater into your house means that you’re going to need a little bit of space. The first thing you want to look at is the size of the room and what kind of screen that you will need.
Picking a screen size for your movie theater in house
Picking out a screen size is going to be your first challenge. The best thing to do is to measure out the dimensions of the screen you’re looking at and put some Post-its on a wall to see how it actually looks. From there, you can decide if that is too big or too small. Move the Post-it notes accordingly to see how big of a screen makes sense for the room.
Our choice was this 120-inch projector. It was straightforward to assemble (make sure you have someone to help) and took us less than an hour to assemble and mount. There are a whole bunch of things you can consider when it comes to a projector screen, and we’re very happy with this one. We chose. Elite screens. Here are some you can choose from.
Selecting a Projector
The next thing you’re going to need is your projector. We bought this Benq 4K projector for less than $1,500, and we’re thrilled with it. The picture on it is amazing and has extremely vibrant colors. Plus, it’s 3D, so if you have some 3D movies, there is that experience too. Plus, it’s true 4k, not a double HD or anything else. It’s awe-inspiring with our Apple TV.
It has okay built-in sound, so you may want to upgrade to a sound system (we did), but that’s entirely up to you.
Here’s ours set up using this ceiling mount. This was the smallest hole we could put in the ceiling, and it’s only visible when you look at it from certain angles. If you don’t have a suspended drop ceiling, then you could just mount it to the stud behind the drywall.
Here is a side view of the projector so you can see the wires; they come through the ceiling mount, so they remain pretty hidden.
A couple of notes on selecting a projector for your movie theater in house
The next thing will be the throw rate on the projector. Don’t let the technical term scare you; all it means is the size of the screen relative to the distance of the projector from the screen. Before you buy a projector, most will have a guide that gives you how far away your projector needs to be. If you are looking for a projector under $1,000, here are a few to check out.
After you have the projector and the screen picked out, the next thing you’re going to decide is how you are mounting the projector. Will it be a wall mount, a tabletop, or a ceiling mount. Personally, we went with the ceiling mount because it was the nicest way to mount a projector that guaranteed nobody would be tripping over wires. The only issue with this is that you may need to get a plug put in the ceiling or run a wire to a close-by outlet on the wall.
This is the wall mount that we used; if it’s under $20, you’ve got a good deal. It took a little figuring out for the Benq, but we’re talking 20 minutes and a quick Google. Once it’s mounted, you’re set.
The tabletop projectors are getting better and better. There are even short-throw ratio ones that can sit directly underneath the screen. This is great if you don’t want to put holes in your wall or ceiling and don’t have a lot of space. Check out this one by Vava if you don’t have a huge room. I looked at this one very long but ultimately decided on the Benq.
So far, we have the screen, the projector, and how far back it needs to be. The next thing you’re going to need to decide is how you are running the media to the projector. Unlike smart TV’s most projectors are just a projector.
You don’t want to have a smart projector as it means that there’s less internal dedicated to the processing of the image. If you are at all like me, you will have noticed that smart TVs, while I’m great, are not nearly as good as tabletop boxes such as Apple TV, Roku or Fire Sticks.
We cut the cord on our cable a few months back and loved it. The only thing we miss is sports, and even that’s not too hard if we want a subscription to one of the sports packages. Of course, there is always Sling TV to if You want a cable subscription.
We decided to run the cables through the walls and mount the Apple TV 4K in an entertainment stand. We also had a second cable for our PlayStation so that we could do some gaming on the screen. You haven’t lived until you gamed on a 120-inch projector screen.
We got a 4K HDMI cable and an optical cable for separate sound (our amp is old, so we had to buy this). They were super cheap on Amazon. Amazon Basics has a lot of affordable stuff, and this HDMI 25-foot cable wire was very heavy duty.
Seating Options for House Movie theater
The next thing you’re going to need to think about is seating.
Of course, we all think about the best movie theater seats, and you can get those with a caveat what’s not to love. The armrests, the drink holder. These chairs take the movie experience to a new level.
Depending on the size of your room and how it is shaped, you may need to have two rows which would mean that you would need to build an elevated part of a floor to house the second row of seats.
When we were building a movie theater in our house, it didn’t make sense. Mostly because of the ceiling height. We drywalled part of our ceiling (read about our drop ceiling here), so it didn’t make sense for us.
Other home movie theater seating arrangements
As you can see, another way would be to go with a sectional or individual chairs. We love our family movie night, so we opted with the sectional that could be split apart and configured in different ways. It was well worth it under $700 for the five pieces.
Update: A year into this and we love the seating arrangement for the movie theater in our home. Definitely recommend finding a seating arrangement that works for the room you are building the theater in.
Picking the Right Sound System for Your Movie Theater in House
Of course, no movie system is complete without a great sound system. There are many ways to do this, and we’ve tried several. The speaker setup is as important as the screen. A good movie with bad sounds just ruins the experience. So put some time in with getting a good speaker set up.
On the lower end and definitely more affordable is a standalone soundbar speaker. This sets underneath the projector screen and takes care of all the sound. You can also get them with a Bluetooth subwoofer for some extra bass which goes a long way in adding to your home Movie experience.
I highly recommend this Bose soundbar or this Sonos soundbar. I have also tried this Polk one with the separate Bluetooth sub and it’s good too. Just make sure you have the right connections. There is a wide range of sound bards to choose from, so do your research.
2.1 Home theater Sound
If you are looking for a slightly more in-depth movie listening experience, you can go with a 2.1 sound system. This means that you have a left and a right, hence the two in 2.1, and you also have a subwoofer as well.
This will make additional sounds for things like people talking on one out of one speaker to the other in a conversation, and 2.1 subwoofer adds more bass, which is great for action movies and any movie that is involved in a lot of action.
For this kind of setup, you will also need a nap to power the speakers. Your projector will need to connect to the app to provide the audio, and the amp will amplify the sound to the speakers.
3.1 Home theater Sound
3.1 means you can have a Soundbar in the front left and right rear speakers and a bass subwoofer. We use this for our living room area, and it’s great. We opted to use Sonos because it’s the best way to use this for TV plus, you can add on as you want. This Sonos Soundbar is a great use.
5.1 Home theater Sound and beyond
5.1 surround sound is what we chose to go with, and we’re happy we have it. When people discuss surround sound, 5.1 or greater is what they consider.
5.1 surround sound means there are five speakers and a bass speaker (also known as a subwoofer). The five channels are left, right, center, and then we’ve got rear surrounds right and left in the back. You sit in the middle of all the speakers, which allows the sound to come at you from all different angles; it is very cool and worth getting at some point if you can’t afford it right away. We have our Bose speakers that are 15 years old and still sound great.
This allows for a more immersive movie viewing experience, and you have different sounds coming from different places within the movie, and it makes you feel like you were there.
As for the amp, it’s an old Kenwood amp. When I replace it, it will likely be with something like this.
What does a home movie theater setup cost?
Based on everything I told you, this is what it would have cost to do this room if you’re buying everything brand new. The materials we bought were:
There you have it. All said, it’s $2320 for my home theater set up. If you add in the furniture, it’s around $3000.
How big of a room do I need for a movie screen theater in my house?
You can do a theater-style set up in even the smallest of areas; it just means you need to get a smaller screen as far as a certain amount of square feet goes.
It really depends on the dimensions of the room and the layout. Our square footage of the theater is roughly 12 feet by 14 feet. We could have easily gone with smaller square footage had we shrunk the screen down.
Windows and Lighting
At first, when we got our theater set up, we were in lockdown, so we used garbage bags as window coverings (classy, I know). But eventually, we upgraded to light blocking blinds. They have made a huge difference in our viewing experience. Whether you go with curtains or blinds on your windows, make sure you find some that will block the light.
There is a wide range of blinds out there, and you can get some for a pretty low price if you know what you want.
We’ve had a few questions about the lighting in the room. We looked at sconces for the walls, but with the outer walls, we have Logix blocks, so new wiring wasn’t possible unless we wanted to tear out the drywall. That meant the classic theater lighting was not an option for us.
Ultimately we went with led recessed lighting. As an extra, we put the recessed lighting on dimmer switches. This gives a nice look and feel to the room.
Over time it would be nice to do a few more upgrades to the theater. Movie poster boxes would be a nice addition, but we are always open to new ideas to make the space better. I would like to get some smart switches so I can say, “Alexa, it’s movie time,” and the lights go dim. But all in time.
Cost to Build a Home Theater: $2000
While you can see that I went over the $2000 limit, there is a way to create a home theater in your house for $2000. This will give you the movie set up, and you can always add to it as you go.
Here are the bare bones for a home theater set up in your house.
- Projector screen $300 (but less if you get a smaller one. See the choices here)
- Projector BenQ T850 4K 3D (highly recommend it) $1500
- Cables (we only needed HDMI cables) $20
- Streaming box (this Fire Stick device is 4k ) if you find it for less than $50 you’re golden.
As for everything else, you can use what you already have and add to it as you go. Things like window coverings, acoustic panels, and other devices (like a new game console).
Voila! There you have it, a nice theater that you can start to build around enjoy!
Final Thoughts on Building a Home Movie Theater in Your Home
You always worry when you build a room like this that it will go unused. I know a lot of people who have built these in the past and are used for a few weeks only to get pushed aside for other rooms in the house.
This is clearly not been the case for us. We watched TV shows every night on it and movies on the weekends. If not a movie or two during the week, if we can squeeze it in, this home theatre movie setup is a dream come true, and I can’t wait to use our home movie theatre for years to come.
We can’t wait to have visitors come and watch the big game or have guests in for a movie night—these rooms a lot more fun when you are with friends.