The lack of a 45-foot-wide screen in your living room shouldn’t rob you of a proper cinematic experience at home. With a little canny investment and some lateral thinking, you can transform your living room into a temple of jaw-dropping, high-fidelity viewing.
1. Pick up a killer TV
First priority? A killer TV. There probably isn’t any point buying a TV that isn’t 4K Ultra High Definition. 4K TVs offer quadruple the resolution of a 1080p (Full HD) screen, meaning that when watching 4K content on, say, Netflix or Amazon Prime, you will get a higher quality picture with more detail.
Thankfully 4K TVs aren’t all that expensive. Chinese brand Hisense is great for entry level TVs: their R7-series in the UK and R6-series in the US can come in at under £400/$400, and offer loads of smart TV features and decent picture quality. More image conscious viewers might want to consider the Samsung Q60T or Q70T, which both utilise the company’s QLED technology to deliver a crisp picture and nifty software to upscale HD and SD content. The problem is that Samsung doesn't support Dolby Vision, which is a type of HDR (meaning high dynamic range), although it does support HDR10+. HDR is a bit of technology that gives your image some oomph, making colours pop and blacks appear deeper.
LG’s TVs do support both HDR 10+ and Dolby Vision, and to really take advantage of it you should consider the LG CX range. The OLED technology of this TV means that each pixel is self-lit rather than relying on a backlight, and as a result you get richer colours and a smoother picture. It comes at a price, though: you’ll struggle to pick one up for under $1400/£1200.
2. Get physical
Yes, most of what you might want to watch is available online. But no, you don’t own any of it – no matter how much you paid Amazon. One day your old DVDs and Blu-rays may be your only way to watch your favourite movie. There are great-value Blu-ray players out there, like Panasonic’s DP-UB450EB ($250/£179) – although there’s a case for investing in an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 (both from $499/£450), which will play your physical media (and do a fair few other things). Additionally, you might consider getting an Apple TV 4K, an Amazon Fire Stick or the Chromecast with Google TV, which give you access to a whole host of streaming apps.
3. Sort the sound
Setting up a surroundsound system takes effort, and often you need to be quite precise about where you place each speaker and the AV receiver you’re using. If you’re not ready to figure all that out, just pick up a soundbar instead. The Sony HT-X8500 ($300/£250) or its luxe counterpart Sonos Arc ($800/£799) both offer the illusion of surroundsound thanks to some clever trickery. If you just want a bit of extra noise on a budget, the bijou but beefy Bose Solo 5 (from $150/£199) is the device for you.
4. Arthouse-up your sofa
Interiors expert Chelsey Brown, author of Rental Style: The Ultimate Guide to Decorating Your Apartment or Small Home and editor of CityChicDecor.com, has some tips for how to make your living room more inviting for movie time: ‘Funky-shaped pillows, like something circular or knot pillows, are a simple trick to add character to your space,’ she says. She recommends blackout blinds to provide that pitch-dark movie experience. They’re available online for around $40/£30. If that sounds small fry to you, how about a new sofa? ‘Try one with a bed in it, or a futon for a budget-friendly option,’ Chelsey says. ‘You can pull out the bed whenever you want to curl up for a movie – it’s like being in a luxurious cinema.’
West Bend popcorn machine
5. Grab some snacks
No trip to the cinema is complete without snacks, and there’s a range of popcorn machines to bring that hot-butter smell to your home. Klarstein Volcano Popcorn Machine (£70.99) is a reliable popper that won’t fire molten kernels at you from across the room, while the West Bend 82515 Hot Theater Style Popper Machine ($62.96) will make you feel like you’re back in the movie theatres of old with its retro design. And pick up Kernel Season’s topping pots ($3.99/£2.49) to mix up the flavours. But remember: you have to vacuum up the loose popcorn.