You’re ready to build your home theater. Awesome! You know you are going to have a massive screen, an amazing projector, incredible sound, controlled lighting, and then you realize you need to also figure out where you and your guests are going to sit.
So you start to look into home theater seating, and pretty quickly it becomes clear that you have tons of choices, and the prices can get out of control very fast. Want to spend a few thousand dollars per seat? No problem, you can do that very easily in a home theater.
In this library entry, we’ll talk about the basics of home theater seating, and you need to get this right. After all, you might be sitting in that seat for long movie marathons and for years and years…
How Big Is Your Room?
Where you will likely start is considering how much room you have to work with, literally. Meaning, how big is your room? How wide is your theater room? How deep is your theater room? You have to know this basic information to even start the process of determining what seats you will have in your theater.
Don’t forget that when you are considering your room size, you need to be thinking about the interior finished dimensions. Lots of rooms have several inches of acoustic treatment, or other finishes, on the ‘inside’ of the room, so you can easily end up with a room that is 6 inches smaller than you might have first thought.
Inside the room, you also need to consider that you have to have space around the sides, essentially aisles. Not all theaters will have an aisle on either side of the seating, one aisle on one side is also very common, but that ‘space’ needs to be planned out.
You don’t need the width of a regular hallway, meaning you do not have to have three feet of space as an aisle next to your seats. However, you do need enough room to get by without squeezing between the seat and the wall.
Likewise, you also need to plan for the space between the rows. Now this will be greatly impacted by your actual seating choice. In other words if you use non-recliners you need far less space between the rows than if you have full sized reclining seats.
As a side note, also keep in mind the dimensions leading into your theater. The size of the doorways, hallways, windows, and so on… It is not unheard of for people to purchase seating for their home theater room, only to find out the seats are too large to make it down a stairway, hallway, through a doorway, or around a corner.
How Many People?
In addition to knowing how big your room is, you also need to think about how many people you want to have seated in your theater. The options for seating 12 people are not the same as the options for seating 6 people, in the same sized room.
When you are thinking about how many people, it is pretty common for folks planning a theater to overestimate the number of people. You should not build/design your theater for the maximum number of people that you think might be there someday.
Planning a theater to seat 16 people for the once per year Super Bowl party is not the best way to plan a theater.
You should plan the seats for what you are expecting will be your normal use. If the room can support 16 people, using more traditional non-recliners, but 99.9% of the time you are using the theater it will be just you and one other person, it doesn’t make sense to fit 16 seats in there.
It makes much more sense to build the theater around you and that other person, and allow for additional seats (even folding seats) to be brought in during those rare times you need more capacity. You’ll enjoy your theater much more with seating that is really designed for your primary use first.
When it comes to the styles of seating for your theater, the choices are really as wide and varied as any other place you have seating. Some owners use couches, some use sectionals, some even use over-sized beanbags. That is all based on your own design and style choice.
There are some main styles of home theater seats however, and one of these styles is what the majority of theater owners will select.
Traditional Theater Seating
When people think of these seats, they tend to think small, cramped, and uncomfortable, but that is really incorrect these days. Traditional theater seating has come a long way over the years, and today you can find very comfortable seats in this style.
If you have a bit less space, or you really do want to have lots of seats in your theater, then you should give serious consideration to this style of seat. They are less expensive than the home theater recliners, and have evolved quite a bit.
Full-sized home theater recliners are currently the most popular type of seat in the home theater. These are similar to a stand-alone reclining chair, only for the theater they are manufactured to be put together in rows, sharing the armrest space between the seats.
With recliners, you need to make sure there is room for the chair to recline fully, both in front of the chair and behind the chair. There are chairs that recline ‘forward’, meaning they can be placed very near a wall and will still be able to fully recline.
High Back Might Not Be Best
Although the desire to have a tall pillow backed chair to rest your head on might be nice, in a theater it actually is not the best choice. Don’t forget that you have surround sound speakers behind you, and no matter what style of chair you use, you need to hear the sound from back there.
If you have a high back chair, you can very easily find yourself having some difficulty in hearing the sounds that are coming from behind your seat. Try holding an actual pillow behind your head and see how challenging it can be to hear what is behind you . That’s often the same result as having a high back chair.
To Curve or Not To Curve?
One last main point to consider is whether or not you will curve your row of theater seats. Having a curve in the seats means that people sitting on the ends of the rows will not have to turn their heads towards the center of the screen, like they do in a straight row. So all seats are pointed “in” to the center of the screen.
If you decide to go this route, you need to plan for, and keep in mind, that a curved row is larger than the straight row. It is wider and deeper, due to the curve. You can see the dimension difference in the following image.
All The Upgrades
Everything today seems to have an upgrade option, and your theater seats are no different. This starts with fabric choices, where you are picking from vinyl, leather-match, full real leather, microfiber, waterproof, etc…
From there you have to decide if you want bass shakers, having that extra vibration in seats is something lots of theater owners love. Then you have to decide what sort of armrest you want and if you want cup holders in the armrests.
You can keep going with heated seats, power reclining seats, built in snack tables, illuminated storage compartments, illuminated foot rests, places to hold your tablet, and even power charging options for your devices.
Yes, there is lots to consider – in a home theater it is never as simple as just ‘picking a chair.
So enjoy the ride and enjoy creating your seat as the best seat in the house!
To learn more about designing and building a dedicated home theater, be sure to check out our Ultimate Home Theater Course.