Death of the Dedicated Theater?

People seem to be using the family room as their main media space instead.

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Multi-use media rooms, like this 2010 Home of the Year winner, are gaining popularity over dedicated theater rooms.

Something felt a bit off this year. During our annual Home of the Year contest, we usually draw the biggest response from custom electronics (CE) pros who have designed dedicated home theaters. You know, those lavish spaces built for serious movie viewing. We saw some dedicated home theaters, but certainly not a surfeit. And there was no shortage of home theater systems installed in other rooms. A sign of the times? I think so.

Still reeling from the economic downturn, people aren’t building new homes like they used to. They’re making do with what they have—and in most cases, what they have doesn’t include much free space for dedicated theaters. Minus this option, families are choosing to incorporate big displays and surround-sound systems into existing rooms— most often the family room.

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This isn’t a new phenomenon. People have been putting big-screens and speakers into their main living spaces for years. But what is new is the caliber of equipment they’re choosing. A flat-panel TV and a basic 5.1 speaker arrangement is simply not cutting it with today’s home theater enthusiasts.

Instead, superwide CinemaScope screens, high-resolution projectors and 7.1 surround-sound systems are becoming the accoutrements du jour for family rooms. People are finding their entertainment comforts among traditional furnishings, family portraits and Friday night slumber parties. Sure, you may sacrifice some of the high-grade performance you’d get from having an acoustically treated environment, but as the owners of our award-winning family rooms agree, there’s something so satisfying about being able to flaunt what you’ve already got.

Be sure to check out our upcoming Home of the Year awards coverage. Winning projects will be posted in May and published in Electronic House magazine throughout the year.

To view last year’s winning homes, go here.

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