November 15, 2019

Defining ‘Home Theater’

So, what does the term “home theater” really mean? This is not a trivial question. One of the challenges we find is the ambiguous nature of the term ‘Home Theater’.  When a client says they want a home theater it is very important to understand what exactly their expectation is for a home theater.  It is our job as the professional theater designer to help our clients understand the possibilities that a private theater experience can provide.

The projects we’re involved with represent the pinnacle of this private theater experience.  This cannot be achieved by simply building a room with speakers, projector, screen, curtains and theater seating that looks pretty.  It can only be achieved with a careful design and engineering process with explicit attention to detail from the planning stages to final room calibration.  Clearly home theater expectations are dependent on perspective.  If our client is unclear on what is possible (and why it is desirable), we may never have the opportunity to do our best work and they may never have the opportunity to experience something fantastic.


When we entered the market over 20 years ago this phrase was regularly referred to as the goal of a private theater.  Originally coined by poet and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817, the phrase has since been appropriated by Hollywood and is used to describe the phenomenon in which an audience, while watching a movie, is willing to accept it as reality.  Without a willing suspension of disbelief, the audience will not relate to the movie and its characters or connect emotionally with them.

This type of experience takes knowledge and skill to produce and is the result of a comprehensive design approach embracing both form and function.  If our clientele understands what type of experience is possible in their home theater and is helped to perceive that experience as a highly valued result, then we will have the opportunity to make that vision a reality.


First we must establish exactly what we want our clientele to perceive.  Simply put, we must establish the idea that home theater means delivering an experience that is well worth pursuing and that, if executed properly, will bring great value and enjoyment to the client, their family and friends.  Here are just some of the attributes our clients seem to enjoy:

  • A great listening experience for both music and movies
  • A visually stimulating picture for movies, concerts and sports
  • An environment that is compelling and draws family and friends together
  • The best game environment they have ever experienced
  • A special place, a retreat from everyday reality