Home Theater vs Media Room: Which One Is Right For You?

At the risk of sounding out of touch, going to the movies just isn’t what it used to be. However, the rise in demand for home-based theatrical solutions seems to prove my point.

In a future post, I’ll break down the costs associated with creating a custom home theater, but for now let’s examine the different options and things you will want to consider when it comes to screening in the convenience and comfort of your own home.

Home Theater

Let me establish first how I differentiate a home theater from a media room. That, to me, is the screen. There may be more exacting or formal definitions out there somewhere, but for the purposes of this post, it’s really the key difference I want to focus on. What that means is that the first thing you need to consider is the room you’re going to use. Why? Projection screens simply won’t work when there is too much light.

Why go this route, then, with such a restriction?

Well, in my experience, people often choose a basement or playroom to convert to a theater, and these rooms are generally predisposed to cater to lower light, or they can be modified to accommodate the issue of too much light.

The real reason to go this route is, of course, size. This is what really goes to the heart of the theater vs media room decision. To truly replicate the theater-going experience, you want to feel immersed in what is happening onscreen, and the only way to really accomplish that is with a large screen. It’s why we go to the movies in the first place. Most projection screens that we install are in the 110-123″ range. whereas most high quality televisions stop at 85″. After that, they become either cost prohibitive, or worse, really bad quality, which is a huge concession you don’t want to make. So this is a key decision.

If home theater is the direction you choose, you need a projection screen and a projector. This is where a professional home theater installer really proves to be the most useful. The importance of calculating distance and angles of projector to screen can’t be overstated, and a professional can help determine what best suits your needs relative to the size and layout of the room.

Tiered Theater Seating

Media Room

Like I said in the beginning, a media room is technically not a home theater because you’re not replicating the theatrical experience in full, since you are simply playing a movie on an LCD or LED screen. But that doesn’t mean that this method can’t be preferable or even have distinct advantages over a theater. Certain aspects are inherently easier when you choose this option. A television will definitely deliver deeper, richer color, and the picture quality, particularly on some of the new 4K and OLED TVs, can’t be beat. You’re also likely very well versed in how to operate a TV, so ease of use and maintenance are among the advantages here. A media room is also generally used for other purposes as well, whereas a dedicated theater is pretty much just that.

Media Room

Still Undecided?

Many times the layout of the room is going to be what makes the decision of screen type an obvious one. Have you ever sat in the front row of a movie theater? It’s not pleasant, and that’s certainly not the experience you want to replicate. But if the space accommodates it, it’s an impressive addition to any household that will put it to good use.

Other Considerations

Once you choose your screen type, the rest of the elements that comprise your space will be largely the same. You will still need to decide the following:

  • Which type of surround sound system will best compliment your setup
  • What receiver you will need
  • What Blu-Ray player or other content streaming devices you might want
  • What style of furniture to choose. Tiered floors with theater recliners are immensely popular and give that true theater feel, but couches can create a more laid back, versatile feel to the room.
  • Which add-ons, such as custom lighting or theater curtains, might enhance the space


Your decision will ultimately be determined by your goals for the room and what the space itself will allow. Either choice will give you the freedom to enjoy your media in a dedicated space, free from distraction, and in the comfort of your own home.

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About the Author

Steve Nicola is the founder & President/CEO at Smart Systems. He is responsible for setting goals and defining strategies that help to grow our company. He lives in Chattanooga with his wife of 28 years and their 3 girls.

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