THEATRE/CINEMA COSTS
HOW MUCH DOES A HOME THEATRE OR CINEMA ROOM COST?

While this is one of the most common questions we get, it can be difficult to estimate a budget without knowing the details of the project. Just as it would be difficult to tell someone how much a house costs. They come in all different shapes and sizes and nearly every aspect of a home can be customized. In order to calculate how much, it will cost to build a home theatre, you first need to nail down some of the specifics.

What is a True Custom Cinema Room?

A Home Cinema is a dedicated room in your house built for the purpose of enjoying movies, television, sports, and gaming. These rooms are designed to provide a true cinema experience -- they’re typically a closed room (to give you complete control of light and sound) and feature a front (short-throw) projector instead of a TV -- a consumer version of what you would expect to find at your local movie theatre. If you’re looking for a more multi-purpose family room with a big TV -- perhaps something open to your kitchen or used in a variety of ways other than entertainment, this is typically referred to as a Home Theatre or Media Room. We have plenty of thoughts and experience when it comes to media room design, but that is a discussion for another day. As we’ve heard from our valued customers over the years, a well-designed home cinema room quickly becomes the favourite room in the house. As with anything, the devil is in the details. Let’s take a look at what it will take to help you start putting a budget together for your dedicated home cinema.

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Room Design, Layout, and Acoustics

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume that you already have a finished room picked out. Perhaps it’s a bonus room above the garage, a spare bedroom, or a finished basement. If you do not have a finished room, you can probably expect between R2,400 - R12,500 per square meter to build out a room from scratch. Of course, this also depends on your location, the level of construction needed, and the quality of materials you choose. Once you’ve picked the room, you may be excited to jump straight into picking out all of the gear and the popcorn machine -- but you’re forgetting the most important and most often overlooked aspect of any custom home theatre project -- the room design.

It never ceases to amaze us when we find a room full of great equipment that was put in the wrong places, or in a room that sounded awful acoustically! Getting this right requires knowledge of how the speakers will react with the room and usually requires taking measurements, doing some tests, and creating some drawings to make sure everything is perfect. Keep in mind that if you want multiple rows of seating, expect riser construction to cost in the R30,000 - R50,000 range

This includes determining:

  • • Placement of your screen and front projector (and choosing the right size screen)
  • • Seating configuration (using sight lines (Visual Axis) to ensure optimal viewing for all)
  • • Speaker placement and acoustic needs

Acoustic Treatment

While it’s nice to have a beautiful picture and loud booming sound effects, when it all comes down to it, the most important part of a movie is the dialogue. If you cannot understand the dialogue, you will be unable to follow along with the plot of the movie. If you are able to understand it clearly, you will be able to hear all the subtle emotions of the characters and you will be magically transported to feeling like you are part of the movie.

Acoustic treatments can make average equipment sound great, and great equipment sound amazing! You can spend as little as R8,000 for some basic panels up to R165,000-R500,000 depending on the size of your room and how far you want to take it. We have been Designing home theatres and cinemas for over 20 years. In that time, we have never had a client tell us they could not hear a huge improvement after we installed their acoustic treatments.

Work with a Professional to Design Your Room

Electronic Living specialises in home theatre design. Expect to pay somewhere in the R8,000.00 - R50,000.00 range for a professional design. It’s money well-spent to ensure that you’re getting the right layout and equipment for the room. Once you have a great design, you can jump back into picking out the equipment, furniture, and decor.

Choosing Your Home Theatre Equipment

Let’s start in our favourite place -- the equipment! If you’ve ever been to a big box store and seen low-end "Home Theatre in a Box" (HTIB) systems for a few hundred dollars, you probably realize that prices for this stuff is all over the map. We wouldn’t recommend putting the time and money into a custom home theatre if you’re going to put a cheap system in, but you can probably expect to spend anywhere from R124,000 up on all of the equipment.

While you may be expecting us to start with the projector itself, this technology tends to become outdated more often than some of the other components in your system. Instead, we are going to start with the areas we think are the best investments and move down from there.

The Projector Screen

We cannot stress enough how important the screen is. You will probably have it for decades if you get a good one. It’s as important as the projector to producing a great picture. As an example, a decent 120” 16:9 screen is typically going to start around R19,000. The really good ones of the same size will be a little above R59,800 and worth every penny. Typically, anything less and you are not going to get all of the performance your projector is capable of.

Surround Sound Speaker System

Right along with the projector screen, another area we highly recommend you invest is the speakers. We are constantly remodelling 20 + year old theaters and reusing the great speaker package they’ve always had, just adding more speakers and newer components to give them the latest surround sound effects. Money spent here is well worth it. No one has ever told us they spent too much on speakers!

When you designed your theatre, you determined the speaker configuration. Depending on which you selected, you may have anywhere from five speakers and a sub in a traditional 5.1 surround sound system all the way up to nine speakers and two subs for the newest object-based surround sound systems like Dolby Atmos or DTS-X.

Front and Centre Channel Speakers

We recommend spending at least R9,500 per speaker for the main front three. These are more important than your surrounds (or rears). The centre channel is particularly important because it’s where 80% of the dialogue comes from in movies and TV shows.

Get in the R20200 each price range and you will start to be able to recreate the impact of those big special effects.

Subwoofers

Decent subs will start at around R9,000 each and can go as high as you can imagine. If you are a big action movie buff, the sub is not the place to pinch your pennies. Two is also always better than one for the most even bass around your room.

Effects Channels (Side and Surround Speakers)

For the effects channels, which now include Atmos in ceiling, your sides and rears, pick something in the R9,580 per pair range and up. Again there is a wide range of choices out there and quality goes up usually with the price. We do not think you need to spend as much on the surrounds as the front three.

Home Theatre Projectors

Each year brings a sizeable range of new models offering better performance than their predecessors.

It has been great to see how front projection technology has improved over the years. The R25,000 front (short throw) projectors available now surpass the R35,0000 models of just 15 years ago! This is a good starting place, but we wouldn’t recommend going any lower than this. Less expensive models are typically more for business applications like conference rooms and do not offer the same features as front projectors design for home theaters.

If you’re interested in the latest and greatest and your budget allows for it, you can expect to pay from R2550 all the way up to R450,000 or more on a front projector that includes features like widescreen or 2:35 aspect ratio, 8K, and great video processing.

One more thing to consider when looking at front projectors is the cost of the lamp. While the life of these lamps have improved over the years, a typical projector today has an average life expectancy of around 6,000 hours before it will need to be replaced. Looking into the cost of the replacement lamp for your particular model is something you may want to consider before making a purchase.

Home Cinema Theater Receivers

Your home Theater/Cinema Receiver is the brain of your system. All of the surround sound processing, video switching, and amplification for your speakers happens inside your home theatre receiver.

The amps inside a home cinema/theatre receiver are very important. To get the full impact of the dynamics of special effects, they need to be able to control your speakers very well. Yes, you can buy an all in one home theatre receiver for as low as R2,500, but this type of unit will have a very low-quality amplifier section and will not do justice to the speakers if you took our recommendations in the previous section. To get something that sounds great, you should expect to pay around R17,800 and up.

If you’re into a more high-end system and it fits into your budget, you can purchase a separate home theatre processor and multi-channel amplifier. This will not only give you better sound but is also scalable in the sense that you can probably keep the amps for 20+ years and only switch out your processor every 5-10 years as technology improves. These components will typically start out in the R49,000 range and go up depending on how many channels of amplification you get and the power levels.

Now that we’ve picked out your equipment, your next consideration should be the seating.

Home Theater Seating

Before we discuss your seating options, we want to make sure we circle back to the design stage for a second.

If you are planning on having multiple rows of seating and didn’t work with a professional to design your theatre, you may wind up having sight line issues once you get your furniture in the room. There is nothing worse than someone’s head blocking your view. The flip side of this is having a screen that is too high off the floor which gives you neck pain when you strain to look up at it.

We’ve seen all kinds of furniture in the home theaters we’ve designed, from your typical home theatre chairs to large comfy couches. Of course, the two factors that determine how much you will spend on seating are the prices of each piece of furniture and the number of pieces you will buy.

The price points for Home Theatre/Cinema seating ranges from just a few thousand rands a seat of the type made in China to the European or US made seating that can run as much as R55,000/per seat. You do want to be comfortable while sitting there for two hours plus enjoying a movie. We highly recommend you consider getting decent quality seating. Some of the inexpensive types may seem like a great deal at first but not so much after a couple of years when the padding starts to give out. Generally, if you choose something >= R13,000/seat you will get decent quality. The really good stuff is more in the R33,000/seat price range. The theatre/cinema seats are made from different materials, colours and configurations.

Professional Installation and Calibration

Just as the design of the room is often overlooked when building a custom home theatre on a budget, so is the installation and calibration of the components.

We suspect more than half of the great home theaters in South Africa have their home theatre/cinema receiver set to factory defaults. We see this all the time when we go in to upgrade our customer's theaters. Calibrating all of the options available on today’s home theatre receivers is critical to getting what you paid for. Properly calibrating the settings on your projector, how the speakers are placed, and all of the settings involved are where the difference is made between a room full of equipment and a true movie theatre experience.

Of course, home theatre installation costs will vary based on your room specifications, the equipment involved, the acoustics of the room, and many other factors. Keep in mind that most professionals opt to only install equipment that they sell. By helping you select the equipment, we can guarantee that everything will work together as expected. Having to piece together a system that may or may not be ideal (and taking responsibility for the end result) is risky. We want our customers to be happy, and working with you to choose the right elements is a critical piece of the process.

Bringing Your Home Theater to Life

Now that you have the room design and all of the critical components chosen and installed, all that’s left are the details that really bring your room to life. Details like the carpet you choose, curtains on either side of the screen, up-lights on the side walls, and a popcorn machine can make all the difference.

For a truly unique look, ask your provider if they work with any interior designers that they would recommend. The right interior designer can help bring the room to life, whether you want to keep it simple or create a fully-themed room.

As you can see, there is a wide range of options that make the answer to “What does a home theatre cost?” really difficult to pin down. As a starting point, you can expect to spend R165,000 on a private home theatre / cinema room. We have designed high-end theaters that cost hundreds of thousands of rands, but our custom theaters range from R165,000.00 to R850,000. When you consider the average kitchen renovation today costs you R500,000, is pretty reasonable. A well-designed home theatre is an investment that will bring fun and entertainment to you and your family for years to come.

Turnkey Home Theatre/Cinema Systems

We Design from scratch one of a kind complete Turnkey Home Theatre/Cinema Systems, as well as Upgrade and Revamp Existing Home Cinema/Theatre Systems.

An Immersive Home Theatre/Cinema Viewing Experience

If you are living in South Africa or the SADC region and would like to understand more about having your very own theatre/cinema give us a call. We can also arrange a high-end home theatre/cinema viewing experience that's so immersive it will give you 'goosebumps'.
 

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