July 13, 2021

Just Add Popcorn: 12 DIY Home Theatre Ideas for Every Budget

Even if you're not tech-savvy, you can build a DIY home theater. Here are 12 do-it-yourself ideas to amp up your movie-watching experience.

Even if you're not tech-savvy, you can build a DIY home theater. Here are 12 do-it-yourself ideas to amp up your movie-watching experience.

The right home theater system can transport you to another world. You can experience 1940s mafia drama from the safety of your own home, trek through the jungle with an intrepid archeologist, or go somewhere over the rainbow with a girl from Kansas. Your home movie theater can take you anywhere. 

While homeowners once had to pay a pretty penny — and a professional — for a decent home theater setup, technology is bringing better movie nights to all of us. Even if you’re not tech-savvy, you can build a DIY home theater. Here are 12 DIY home theater ideas for any budget. 

12 DIY home theatre ideas that make movie magic 

From cushy seating to surround sound, these ideas will help you build your own home cinema. In each section, we’ve included tips for going all out or doing it on the cheap. It’s your movie night, so do it your way! 

1. Add your own movie theater seats

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Home theater seating doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be comfortable. Your seating choice will have the biggest impact on how much you enjoy your movie room, so get that upscale movie theater experience by investing in a few recliners. These Cyrus Home Theater Console Seats are an excellent option. You could also choose a reclining sofa with a center console and cup holders, like the Bismarck Power^2 Sofa, so you can kick up your feet and still reach your snacks. 

Go all out: For the best viewing experience, your movie theater seats should angle toward center screen, which means the number of seats you can fit is limited by how wide your room is. If you have space for a second row of seats, you can build a raised wood floor and make DIY stadium seating so everyone in the room has a good view of the TV screen. 

Get it on the cheap: Shop for budget furniture or visit your local furniture store during big sales weekends, like Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day weekend for the best deals. 

2. Start with a flatscreen TV 

Most people imagine a projector screen in their home theater, but if you can only fit or only afford one screen, it should be a flatscreen television. Depending on the lighting in your room, you may not be able to watch movies on a projector during daylight hours. (Yes, that can still be true if you have blackout blinds.) 

Also, if your home theater room is small, your projector might not give you as big of a picture as you’re hoping for — distance from the projector to the projection screen is a big factor in image size.

Go all out: This is a great place to invest a little more. Opt for one of the biggest and best HDTV flatscreens available, and you won’t even miss the projector. 

Get it on the cheap: Stick with the TV you have or pick one up secondhand. Then, use our tips below to make it more ergonomic and enjoyable to watch. 

3. Add a projector screen

Now that you have your TV set up, you can add a projector screen that rolls down or pulls out in front of it. Having both screens will give you a variety of viewing experiences, and placing your projection screen directly in front of your TV means you won’t have to adjust your seating arrangement when you want to switch screens. 

Go all out: Invest in a top-of-the-line projector and a motorized screen. When you want to switch from your TV to your projector screen, you won’t even have to get out of your seat. 

Get it on the cheap: You can now get a decent projector for under $100. While a motorized projector screen might be out of budget, there are several pull-down and tripod options — also for under $100.

4. Make your TV more ergonomic

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If you’re planning on having a few movie marathons, you’re going to want an ergonomic setup. Place your TV so that the center of the screen is right at eye level when you’re sitting comfortably. 

Many home TVs are actually mounted too high, making you crane your neck as you watch and causing harm over time. Avoid this fate by choosing a low TV stand with a height of around 18 to 30 inches (we like to use this 21-inch high two-door TV console) depending on your screen size. Then set your TV on the console or mount it on the wall just above. 

Go all out: For an upscale option, look for a solid wood TV stand, like this eye-catching solid Sheesham wood console

Get it on the cheap: This is another place where you can save by comparison shopping at local furniture stores — especially during sales. 

5. Make your TV feel bigger 

If you’re dreaming of a big screen TV but it’s not quite in the budget right now, you can create the appearance of a large screen by moving your seating closer. Just be careful that the seats on the outer edges of your layout still have a good viewing angle. 

You can also try putting your screen on a smaller wall or smaller TV stand. A medium-size TV mounted on a large wall or placed on an extra-long TV console will look smaller because it’s being dwarfed by the objects around it. Many TV consoles are around 59-60 inches wide. For a smaller option, look for one that’s only 48 inches wide

Go all out: Well … you could always buy a bigger TV. 

Get it on the cheap: Moving your seating closer and mounting your TV on a smaller wall are both free options, but you can also find plenty of small TV stands on a budget

6. Add a Blu-ray player 

You might spend most of your time streaming, but a Blu-ray DVD player will allow you to dig out your DVD collection and rewatch your favorites for free. If you’re investing in a new DVD player, always opt for Blu-ray players since they can play both newer and older format DVDs.

Go all out: While you’re selecting a DVD player, you can also start building your movie collection. Buy DVDs of your favorite movies or get a box set of 100 of the best movies of all time. Don’t forget to add a media tower so you can keep your collection organized. 

Get it on the cheap: Look for secondhand or refurbished Blu-ray players to save money without sacrificing quality. Owning a DVD player could actually help you save in the long run — you can take out fewer streaming subscriptions and rent DVDs from the local library, sometimes for free!

7. Track down a VCR 

We’re getting really old-school on you now, but there are a few things we love about this retro addition to your home theater. A VCR allows you to watch old VHSs, like your favorite childhood movies or home movies of yourself, your parents, or your grandparents during decades past. Think of this investment as a way of preserving family history. 

Beyond that, you can often find VHS tapes of classic movies for next to nothing. Who knows? Scouring local thrift stores for old VHS movies might become your favorite new hobby. 

Go all out: This is an inexpensive option no matter how extreme you go, but if you really want to invest in an old-school VHS collection, you’ll need a stylish storage hutch to organize your videos. 

Get it on the cheap: You can save money by getting a DVD/VCR combo so that you only have to buy one piece of equipment. 

8. Add a gaming console 

Movies aren’t the only form of entertainment your home theater can offer. Make your space double as a game room by adding a gaming console, like a Nintendo Switch, X-Box, or Sony PS5.

Go all out: Add all of the best consoles so you have unlimited gaming options. If you have the space, you can also incorporate a few retro arcade games, like Pac-Man and Space Invaders, to create a combined home cinema and arcade. 

Get it on the cheap: Look for refurbished consoles or older models to save money. If you buy a PS4, it will cost you nearly $200 less than a PS5.

9. Get connected 

To enjoy your Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription, you’ll need to connect your TV to the internet. Newer smart TVs have built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. But if you have an older television or you’re using a projector screen, you can ad-hoc those smart features by syncing it with a Roku or Apple TV. 

Go all out: Upgrading to a big screen smart TV will give you all the connectivity you need without any extra equipment. You can also sync your projector with your smart TV to get the same viewing options on your second screen.

Get it on the cheap: You can skip all the smart features and extra tech by simply connecting your laptop to your TV with an HDMI cable. Then you can browse the internet and watch Netflix on your big screen instead of your little laptop. The downside of this is that you may need to get up and walk to your laptop each time you want to watch something new. 

10. Improve your speaker setup 

Adding a home theater speaker system is often the most expensive and complicated part of setting up your DIY home theater. But the right speakers can completely transform your movie experience

At a minimum, you’ll need a good center speaker, but if you want to create a surround sound system you’ll also need an AV processor or soundbar. To get the dramatic bass that you experience in the movie theater (you know, that sound that seems to make the seats shake when there’s a big explosion), you’ll also need a subwoofer

Go all out: You can spend a lot of money on your home theater sound system, but it will be money well spent. If you’re going to call in professional help for one part of your DIY home theater, it should be the sound system. If you want to do it all yourself, find a good tutorial, and invest in the best speakers money can buy

Get it on the cheap: The cheapest way to get good sound is to buy a slightly more expensive TV with better sound quality. If you’re dedicated to creating a surround sound experience for less, try pairing some inexpensive Bluetooth speakers with your smart TV

11. Add blackout blinds

Whether your home theater room is in your living room, basement, or spare bedroom, glare can ruin your viewing experience. Swap out your horizontal blinds for something that blocks 100% of the light. Look for a blackout lining and try adding light strips around the edge or your window to prevent light from creeping in around the sides of your blinds.

Go all out: Opt for red velvet curtains or gold fabric Roman blinds to create that old Hollywood movie theater feeling. 

Get it on the cheap: For a less expensive window covering, try blackout roller blinds or honeycomb shades. 

12. Create your own snack station

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You can’t really get that movie theater experience without popcorn. Get yourself an old-timey popcorn machine, then pick out a bar cart or serving cart and stock it with your favorite movie theater snacks. Think bags of popcorn, Milk Duds, Junior Mints, or Sour Patch Kids. You’ll be able to turn every movie night into a delicious indulgence. 

Go all out: Instead of the bar cart, add a full bar. Keep it stocked with your favorite adult beverages, and you’ll feel like you’re at the fanciest movie theater in town. 

Get it on the cheap: Old-timey popcorn machines can cost $200 to $500, but you can get a mini microwave for under $100 — use it for all your popping needs. If you don’t have room in your budget for a snack cart, make room in your TV console to stash your favorite snacks.

DIY Your Way 

Your DIY home theater should fit your needs and your budget. Start by choosing comfy theater seats and a good TV. Those are the only two items you truly need for a home theater, but a high-quality sound system can also make a big difference in your viewing experience

Once you’ve covered the basics, you can start adding fun extras, like a gaming console and a movie theater snack bar. When you’re finished setting up your DIY home theater, there’s just one thing left to do — invite everyone over for a movie night

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