Forget bonus rooms and basements filled with cast-off furniture and piles of kids’ stuff. Today’s home entertainment spaces are sophisticated and tech-savvy, often including home theaters that look as if they’ve been lifted straight from some Hollywood producer’s mansion.
Indeed, at one time, home theaters were the purview only of the wealthy, but the increasing integration of computers in home entertainment systems and the wide range of inexpensive streaming options have made them a reality for many more people.
Reasons for the increase in home theaters, especially in new homes and remodeling projects, are tied to the more reliable quality of television sets and improved streaming of a wide variety of content. At the same time, prices for remarkable electronic systems are down and they are easier than ever to use—a key factor that wasn’t always the case in the past. In fact, these days, a single hand-held remote control is often all you need.
Then too, with home theaters there is a level of performance you can’t get in commercial movie houses and no one is talking behind you or rattling their candy wrappers. In addition, you have the freedom to view entertainment on your schedule, pause during the performance or rewind the scene again.
Changes in Electronics
“There are differences in today’s computers and televisions,” declares Paul Kavanagh, manager of the Crutchfield retail store in Charlottesville. “Streaming is a real game-changer with new TVs and new concepts. More and more people are cutting the cord and getting away from disks and cable with the new streamed offerings like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HULU, and Sling.”
The hardware is changing, too, he continues. “TVs, over the last ten years, have gotten thinner and lots of folks are mounting them right on the wall. Technology has improved picture resolution so much with high definition and the latest thing is ultra-high resolution with color and contrast getting better and better.”
He adds that television sets with a curved shape are increasingly popular. “They give a much more life-like picture with an enveloping experience,” he says. The curved screen is said to be more natural by taking advantage of peripheral vision to give a wider viewing angle. Curved screens aren’t ideal for wall mounting, however, because of the shape and because they tend to be thicker.
A downside for those new super skinny TV sets is that they don’t have room for the included speakers to be as good as they used to be. Never fear! There’s a solution.
“Over the past few years, people have been adding other speakers to enhance the sound.” Kavanagh says. “Soundbars which can be mounted above or below the set are a popular option. These systems are slender and usually include a wireless connection to an auxiliary speaker supporting rich low frequencies for drastically improved sound.”
Planning is important from the get-go to be sure the room’s dimensions are used in the best way. Do you want plumbing for a wet bar or powder room? Are windows well placed? What about window coverings to minimize the distracting reflections common on the new bigger screens? What about furniture? Must the room be flexible?
For example, one family installed six luxurious permanent theater seats in their home theater, while another couple opted for flexibility by choosing easily moveable seating so the room could be conveniently converted to a meeting room or used for general entertaining.
There are clever ways to conceal or camouflage large screens, plus speakers are smaller, and the wireless setups which are standard in many homes today mean a remote control can often manage the whole system.
“Some people still go for front projectors and larger screens that can be concealed in the ceiling,” continues Kavanagh. “That’s for the folks who really want the movie house feel and have the space such as a large basement.” In these cases, people generally opt for “disappearing” screens and projectors which drop from the ceiling or lift out of furniture or cabinets.
A positive selling point?
REALTOR ® Bill May of ERA Bill May Realty Company has a word of caution. “If a home theater exists, it might not add value to a house,” he says. “It’s not necessarily a big plus. Great kitchens and bathrooms are better selling points.”
On the other hand, he notes, “It’s not a bad thing to have and it can be a plus, especially for, say, a big fan of football or other sports.” He points out that bigger homes are more likely to have a dedicated entertainment room. “A smaller home of 1800 or 2000 square feet doesn’t have the space.”
In any case, he concludes, if a home theater is what you and your family will enjoy, go for it and create one just the way you like it. At the same time, it’s smart to design it so buyers could continue to use the home theater if that’s their preference or easily convert the space into a home office, a children’s playroom, a home exercise studio, or whatever is most useful and practical for them.
Marilyn Pribus lives in Albemarle County with her husband. They lack the space for a home theater, but they recently cut the cable and enjoy Netflix and Amazon Prime on their ultra-high-definition TV set.