Home Cinema Club

Tuesday 08 August 2017, 08:07 PM

Michael Briers
Journalist , Freelance

Rising costs and a wealth of alternatives mean that trip to see a film on the big screen is no longer the enticing proposition it once was. 

Another year, another onslaught of summer blockbusters designed to whisk viewers off an incredible, cinematic journey. Whether it’s the wildly entertaining Spider-Man: Homecoming or Dunkirk and its edge-of-your-seat spectacle, moviegoers have been flocking to local cinemas in their droves to catch the latest releases on the big, big screen.

But with ticket prices soaring and admissions dwindling — UK cinemas registered around 168 million admissions in 2016, down 3-4 million from the year before — screen junkies are beginning to consider other, cheaper forms of entertainment. To put things into perspective, data released by the BFI revealed that the average ticket price in the UK has ballooned over the past decade, rising from £4.87 in 2006 to around £7.17 in 2015 (Source: Statista). That’s an increase of almost 50 percent in just nine years, so it’s no wonder film fans have sought out streaming platforms (see: Netflix) and/or a set-top box (NOW TV) and shelved those cinema plans altogether. 

Besides, why pay hand over fist for a three-hour cinema trip — a trip that often involves screaming youngsters, crowded theatres, and some oblivious idiot that just happens to put his feet up on the back of your seat — when you can recreate the experience in your living room? That’s where LifeSearch’s Home Cinema Club comes in. 

We’ve scoured the four corners of the Internet to piece together a beginner’s guide to the home cinema. And though it may seem like a high-end luxury on paper, thanks to mobile projectors and affordable sound systems, it doesn’t have to be. But let’s begin at the beginning; the home cinema set-up is only as good as the content it plays, and for that, you’ll need to dabble with online alternatives (if you haven’t already).

With an install base spanning 103.95 million users worldwide, Netflix is the undisputed heavyweight in the world of digital streaming. Packages start at £5.99 per month, and allow viewers to watch on one device at a time in standard definition. If you’re catering for a full family of screen junkies, you’ll want to consider Netflix’s premium options, which allow subscribers to watch HD content on two devices at a time (£7.49 p/m) or, if you’re wanting to go all-in, the £8.99 package opens up the possibility of Ultra HD content across four screens simultaneously. 

Content-wise, this is a platform renown for its big-budget original series. From the political cauldron of House of Cards to Arrested Development and everything in between, Netflix truly has something for everyone. Its dedicated Kids section is packed to the rafters with family-friendly programming, including TV shows like Doctor Who, Peppa Pig, Horrid Henry, and and those ubiquitous Minions. No, even on Netflix you’ll not be able to escape those bubbly, yellow-skinned critters. What makes Netflix so special, though, is the ability to binge content as you please. With the exception of some adult dramas, all episodes are available to stream as soon as your subscription begins, so you’d best get comfortable. 

Speaking of comfort, what’s a cheap night in without some snacks to keep the youngsters quiet? Cinema confectionary may cost an arm and a leg, but with home popcorn makers starting at just £14.99 Like this one on Amazon, you’ll be able to rustle up tasty treats for the whole family — and healthy, too, given most machines cook popcorn without oil or butter. 

But when it comes to replicating the theatre experience in your living room, even a top-of-the-range 50” TV won’t quite make the cut — and that’s where projectors come in. If you’re in the market for the best of the best, wall-mounted projectors can wind up costing you upwards of £500 or more, but in the name of penny-pinching, we’ll instead direct your attention to the Pico Projector. Available via Amazon for £36.99, this portable, super-light device packs a real punch, and is compatible with Android and iOS devices across the board. It even allows for a display size between 24 and 60 inches, depending on the throw distance — that is, the distance between the lens of the projector and your canvas of choice, be it a wall, ceiling, or custom-built screen. The Pico Projector prides itself as a pint-sized companion for camping and hiking, but it’s also capable of transforming that spare bedroom into a pop-up theatre. 

The home cinema club may seem like a pricey investment at first, but the fact that Netflix is beginning to launch its own original feature films (see: Bright, Mute), coupled with those soaring ticket prices, means that investing in Netflix and a handful of extras will save you a pretty penny in the long run. 

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