How to make your own home cinema

Couple watching TV

Staying in is the new going out, and new homes are an especially pleasant place to spend your free time. With younger generations drinking less and nightclubs falling from favour, visiting the cinema has become an increasingly rare communal experience. Yet even the magic of the silver screen can be replicated at home, using modern electronics and some low-tech accompaniments.

Creating your own home cinema might sound ambitious, especially if your living room is modestly sized or already performing several other roles. However, it’s surprisingly easy to host successful movie nights from the comfort of your armchair...

An immersive environment

Cinemas are immersive venues, and small screen showings benefit from blackout curtains which prevent natural light hitting the TV screen (of which more in a moment). Blackout blinds usually leave haloes of daylight around their edges, which is less effective than curtains. Cinemas make a big deal about deterring smartphone use, and there’s no reason to let a tiny screen spoil your small screen replication of the big screen. Set phones to airplane mode or leave them outside. 

Tip: You don’t need dimmable mood lighting of the kind found in cinemas, but it’s advisable to turn off artificial lights and rely on the screen’s illumination to find your popcorn.

The screen

There’s little benefit investing in an 8K TV, since 4K versions provide picture quality to rival cinema projectors. Purchase costs of 4K units are falling rapidly, just as HD and LCD screens once did. OLED displays are more expensive than LED tellies, but they deliver more vivid contrasts and superior viewing angles – handy if several people will be watching a film together. Try to position the TV as far from your chosen seating position as possible (ideally wall-mounted), with the centre of the screen roughly at eye level. 

Tip: Larger screens deliver a more immersive experience, but in a smaller space, a TV bigger than 55 inches might feel like overkill. Check your room’s dimensions before making a purchase.

The sound
Trips to the cinema used to start with an animated Dolby trailer incorporating helicopter sounds, giving audiences an idea of the aural treats to follow. Surround sound systems accomplish similar stereoscopic effects at a fraction of the cost, but wired setups might necessitate lifting floorcoverings to hide their spaghetti of cables. Wireless units are simpler but occasionally end up out of sync with on-screen images. There’s little benefit to a 7.1 setup – five satellite speakers and a subwoofer ought to deliver a cinematic experience. 

Tip: If you live in a flat or terraced house, place a square of carpet under the sub to prevent vibrations annoying the neighbours. This also minimises the impact on people in your own house – sub-bass rumblings from another room can become irritating. Speaking of which…


Improve acoustics by putting rugs down on polished floors, and hang a blanket over the back of the closed door if noise might leak in from elsewhere in the house. DVDs are regarded as old-fashioned nowadays, but they won’t spoil the ambience by unexpectedly buffering or freezing. Finally, if you’re planning to invest in a new sofa, consider a recliner where you can adjust the footrest and headrest to the contours of your body, mirroring the comfort provided by premium cinema seats.

Tip: Sitting on the floor staring up at a screen could result in neck pain and headaches. Ensure everyone is in a comfortable position before pressing play….

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