Is Home Cinema Still Relevant in 2017?

Yes, more relevant than ever, argues Owen Maddock, owner at Bristol-based home technology specialists ConnectedWorks and self-confessed cinephile.
It started with a little Twitter spat. In a discussion about home cinema, one very active member tweeted ‘I don’t get it’ and I replied ‘but I don’t get Polo; that’s okay…’ and things escalated. Our industry is filled with passionate people which is wonderful but I thought it worth explaining what’s behind my thinking.
In the wider market, people who once bought entry AV receivers and 5.1 satellite speakers are now buying soundbars. Where simplicity and ease of install are critical, that makes complete sense.
But, up from there, cinema at home remains very popular and is growing nicely. 
Reasons to be useful – one, two, three.
We still hear, ‘you might as well go to the cinema’ or, ‘you only watch one film a week’ (you might).  But today, there are new reasons to fire up the cinema:
i) ‘Event’ TV
It started with The Sopranos. Box-set TV is brilliantly well-made and entertains for hours. I’m really looking forward to Stranger Things 2.
ii) Gaming
Playing games on a well-designed cinema is breathtakingly impressive. This is an important and substantial market.
iii) Sport
Many clients love sport! Where appropriate, design for ‘watching sport with friends’.
Plus, perhaps a fourth – home cinema brings families together and gets everyone off their phones.
The Golden Age
Today’s Home Cinema purchaser is extremely lucky. Projectors are brighter, more colourful and more accurate. Modern AVRs and pre/processors vastly outperform their predecessors. We can achieve more with less, just because the tech has improved.
The Cinema Experience
Cinema is a designed experience, meant to fill up your senses. Picture should occupy most of your field of vision. At mainstream sizes, in most rooms, a TV doesn’t do it. That’s not my opinion! It’s from Lucasfilm (THX), Dolby Labs, and other global standard-setting bodies.
Sound should take you away to another world, while reproducing all the dynamics of the orchestra. More recently, immersive 3D audio is a major step forward in this sense of immersion.
When we create our cinemas, the best part is the handover. Clients may be experiencing true cinema at home for the first time. Ideally, the children will be there – the look on their faces should be all the feedback you need. 
Did we mention the price?
It all depends on the room.
Room size dictates the ideal spec, and that affects the equipment and the price. Double the distance to speakers means the power needed goes up four times. So, £100k might be opulent – but, in a fairly large space, it might just be ‘what’s needed’.
That same room size versus performance trade-off happens with all-in-one systems too – the only difference is, there’s nothing you can do. The system just performs less well – or struggles more - in larger spaces.
Never assume that one quality fits all.
Design Training
If you want to take advantage of the market opportunity, then make sure you get trained. CEDIA’s two-day interactive Cinema Design Specialist course is core training for home cinema designers. Day 1 teaches engineering fundamentals; on Day 2 you apply them to a challenging client brief. This excellent course certainly raised my cinema game – it’s essential.  We stayed off ‘the numbers’ for this piece – they’re in the training.
I firmly believe there is still a very good cinema business for home technology integrators, and will be for many years to come.

As featured in the July issue of Essential Install.