If you're a family full of movie buffs, a home theater is a must-have. And with the small fortune you spend going out to the movies — between tickets and concession-stand snacks — your own personal screening room is a smart investment. Need inspiration? Start with these essentials.
An oversize HD screen
This one's kind of a no-brainer — you need a big-ol' expanse of screen to watch whatever kung-fu-ninja-masters-of-the-universe movie your husband convinced you is a must-see. If you opt to go the traditional TV route, we suggest the Samsung 60-inch 3D LED TV (Amazon, $1900). It boasts crisp picture quality, incredible 2D and 3D in full HD, micro-dimming plus for super-accurate imagery and all the smart-TV bells and whistles like web-connected apps and browsing.
However, we're totally not opposed to some projector action, either. A solid, affordable option is Epson's PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 (Amazon, $1,000).
A Blu-ray player
If you're going to master the art of home-theater enjoyment, you need a high-quality Blu-ray player to deliver cutting-edge images that will keep you on the edge of your cozy home-theater seat. We recommend the OPPO BDP-103 Universal Disc Player. This puppy can play pretty much any disc you pop in it. Not to mention, through some feat of electronic wizardry we won't pretend to comprehend, it lets you transform your favorite 2D movies into 3D with 2D-to-3D conversion. Couple that with streaming-content compatibility and crystal-clear video quality, and you've got yourself a winner (Amazon, $499).
A smart box
Perhaps you're part of the growing trend of "cord cutters" — people who've turned their back on cable in lieu of streaming services — or maybe you just really dig techy gadgets. Either way, you need Roku. In addition to having an impossibly catchy name, this sweet little box makes watching the hottest movies and shows and enjoying the best music and games easy peasy. Touted as the easiest streaming option around, Roku offers over 1,000 channels, including favorites like Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant, Spotify and more. Simply plug it into your TV and hook it up to your high-speed home network, and you're looking at hours of avoiding mundane responsibilities like doing laundry (Roku, starting at $50).
It just wouldn't be the full big-screen experience without that familiar rattle in your chest as the Godzilla-sized speakers start blaring previews. Enter surround sound. But here's the thing — let's be honest, ladies — none of us are crazy about having our House Beautiful–worthy interior design clouded by little black boxes and unsightly wires. So if you don't have the budget or living space to devote a bonus room or basement to your home theater, consider skipping the full surround-sound system and going instead with Sony's sleek HD Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer (Amazon, $200).
An undeniable happiness sinks in at the moment when they dim the lights in the movie theater. It's strange how sitting in the darkness can make the moviegoing experience so complete, but it just does. If you're lucky enough to have a dimly lit basement in which to house your home theater, your battle is already half won — it won't take much to plunge the room into an appropriate absence of light. If your home theater does double duty as a living space, shop around for custom window treatments with blackout panels sewn in.
Another quintessential part of the moviegoing experience we'd be remiss not to mention is, of course, popcorn. A nostalgic vintage-style popper is our pick (Amazon, $72).