How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

From projectors to popcorn makers, here’s all the gear you need to recreate the movie theatre experience from the comfort of your own home

Don’t you miss it? The vast screen. The sweet popcorn. The collective gasps and laughs and shrieks. It’s been so long since we’ve been to the cinema, we’re even missing the inflated ticket prices and the sticky floors. But the film industry — in part, at least (we’re looking at you, 007) — rumbles on. The curtain hasn’t fallen on all new releases; films are just finding new homes.

Homes, unfortunately, on the smaller screen. Streaming services from HBO Max to Disney+ are scooping up films that would otherwise have had theatrical releases. And that means it’s time to give your home cinema set-up a well-overdue overhaul. 

So, before you press play on even one more blockbuster, here’s how to build a theatre-beating home cinema system — from projector to popcorn maker…

Start off with a widescreen television (no, even wider…)

How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

They call it ‘the big screen’ for a reason. Your cinema experience hinges on those eye-stretching, mind-blowing visuals — and that calls for a widescreen TV. Depending on your set-up, we’ve picked out three sizes, starting with Panasonic’s HZ2000 — 55 inches of Hollywood-approved HD (with built-in ‘Filmmaker Mode’).

At the 65-inch mark, there’s the LG OLED65CX. Smart, 4K and fitted with both Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, it comes with Dolby Atmos sound and a seriously competitive price tag. Or, if you really want to fill a wall, there are few options better than Samsung’s 75-inch Q950TS; borderless and blessed with 8K definition (which we didn’t even know was a thing…)

How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

Panasonic HZ2000 OLED TV

£2999

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Or, if you're a real enthusiast, fire up a projector

How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

Of course, real cinemas don’t use televisions — so why should you? If you’ve got the room (and funds) to do this thing right, a projector is the only surefire way to bring the cinema home. First up, for the real enthusiasts, we’ve gone for JVC’s DLA-N5 projector. With Clear Motion Drive, Auto Tone Mapping and 4K Native Resolution, this is as close as you’ll come to firing up a theatre-grade projector in your home.

For less money, Epson’s 4K projector still does a stellar job — and is universally recognised as the best projector currently on the market for under £2,000. It also supports 4K streaming from Netflix. And finally, for sheer reliability, Sony’s SXRD Projector has a Silicon X-tal Reflective Display and 3D-Ready set-up (more on that dimension later).

And then you'll need a decent screen to project onto

How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

What good is a proper projector without a capable screen? Even the most expensive projector can’t cover up the nails, nicks and bumps on your walls. Thankfully, screens don’t come too expensive. The priciest we’ve chosen, for example, is Optoma’s standalone 84-inch screen — created by a projector company which really knows its stuff.

At the cheaper end of the screen spectrum, we’ve picked our Homegear’s larger 100-inch screen — marketed towards avid sports viewers, but with a three-layered black-backed screen that’ll sharpen up any cinematic experience. Or, for a screen you can use both inside and outdoors, Vamyo’s vast 120-inch offering is built with ever-steady tripod feet. 

How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

Optoma 84" Projector Screen

£179.99

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How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

Homegear 100” Projector Screen

£79.99

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How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

Vamvo Outdoor/Indoor Projector Screen

£109.99

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Don’t skimp on your sound

How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

Visuals sorted; now comes sound. Nothing will compare to the chair-rumbling, heart-pounding bass of cinema sound — unless you’ve got enough room to mount the theatre-average 10 speakers from your walls. Instead, go for a sound bar. The Sonos Arc, equipped with Dolby Atmos, would be a good start — elegantly designed and carefully tuned with the help of Oscar-winning sound engineers to emphasise the voices in film.

From Sennheiser, the Amber sound bar steps things up a level — with 13 independent drivers, immersive 5.1.4 sound and DTS:X compatibility (a codec used in cinema sound that creates multi-dimensional sound that ‘moves’ around your room). Or, if you want the more traditional multi-speaker set-up, Q Acoustic’s ‘Cinema Pack’ is good-looking, incredibly precise — and won’t break the bank.

How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

Q Acoustics 3050i 5.1 Cinema Pack

£1099

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How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar

£2199

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And buy a subwoofer for cinema quality sound

How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

If you still want that bold, bassy experience — you must invest in a subwoofer. These ground-breaking, floor-shaking speakers add another layer to the home cinema experience. From KEF, the newly launched KC62 is an incredibly small option that still manages to pack the might and magic of deep, accurate bass.

Scandi sound experts Bang & Olufsen have, reliably, served up a similarly excellent subwoofer — the Beolab 19, which is both wireless and worthy of display itself. Or, for a slightly cheaper option, look to Sonos. This Generation 3 ‘Sub’ was engineered from scratch by the American brand — and will pair with the Arc soundbar above.

How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

Bang & Olufsen Beolab 19

£2500

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Finally, complete the cinema experience with accessories

How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

Think you’re finished? Think again. It wouldn’t be the full cinema experience without a couple of choice extras. Once you’ve got your screen and sound sorted, why not try to recreate the wider movie theatre world. For starters, a popcorn maker — such as this cherry red offering from Yabano — to prepare your salty or sweet snacks for the film.

JVC, also, produce a pair of 3D glasses — perfect if you’re looking to indulge in some immersive entertainment with that SXRD Projector above. And, finally, to create the perfect, blacked-out atmosphere for your home cinema, some heavy-swag velvet curtains from MADE. 

How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

JVC 3D Projector Glasses

£149

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How to build a theatre-beating home cinema system

MADE Julius Velvet-lined Black-out Curtains

£89

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