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How to Build an Amazing Home Theater on a Budget

young man watching television
There’s more to a great home theater than fresh-made popcorn.

Thanks to streaming services, it’s easier than ever to have your pick of flicks right from home. Now you just need to create the perfect viewing environment.

A decade ago, an in-home screening room was a luxury reserved for celebrities and CEOs. But now that movies are available at the swipe of your finger (admit it, when was the last time you left the house to watch a movie?), it’s no surprise that building an amazing home theater is also within your grasp. And with these tips, you won’t need major bank to do it.

Give it some space

The ideal dimension for a home theater is a room that’s 20 feet long by 13 feet wide. (If this isn’t available, a room that’s at least 12 feet by 12 feet should work too.) The size of your room can also determine whether to go with a TV or a projector and screen. can help you determine how far away your seating should be based on the size of your screen. If you don’t have the space for a 10-foot-wide screen, or if your room gets a lot of light, stick with a TV.

But if you do opt for a projector and screen …

Choose a fixed screen, i.e., one that stays on the wall at all times, rather than a retractable one, which will save you money. Look for one with a thick, black frame, which improves the picture quality.

As for projectors, look for a 3-D option with high-definition 1080p resolution. Optoma projectors get excellent reviews at an affordable price point.

Splurge on sound

You’ll want to spend a little more money on the subwoofer and receiver, which will give you movie-theater-quality sound. Prepare to spend $450 to $500 for each piece. And check out Monoprice for the proper cables and speaker wire you’ll need to connect your new system.

Buy a Blu-ray Disc player

If you don’t already have one, Blu-ray is the way to go. The picture quality is amazing, and the player will have apps and streaming devices built right in. (Bonus: You can get one for around a hundred bucks.)

Dim the lights

For a true movie theater experience, you’ll want to be able to control the lighting in the room, preferably from your seat. To do this on a budget, install a dimmer switch.

For around $40, you can get one with an IR (infrared) receiver, which allows you to control the lighting from an IR remote. In other words, you can dim the lights with the same remote you use to start the film.

Control the acoustics

Sound quality (and making sure your viewing habits don’t disturb everyone else in the house) is key to an at-home theater.

If you have the extra cash, you can purchase premade acoustic panels. Otherwise, you can make your own for around $20 to $50 per panel. has a tutorial on how to do this for the DIY types.

Don’t skimp on surge protectors

You’ve invested a lot of time and money into your equipment, so a power surge shouldn’t pulverize it!