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The story below was originally published on Theo’s Roundtable, for which I am contributing writer.
Lately, there has been a lot of chatter here on Theo’s Roundtable about the death of cinema and how home theater has reached a point where it’s begun to overtake commercial cinemas in terms of relevance. I’ve even contributed to such writings, but make no mistake, the concept of a home theater is far from perfect. In truth, it’s just as flawed and in some ways as doomed as the commercial-cinema experience.
Some would argue that the advent of VHS and, later, DVD gave rise to the idea of having a cinema-like space in one’s home. I argue it was the dot-com boom of the late ’90s and the housing boom of the early 2000s that really put the home in home theater. Much like owning a pool or driving a fancy car was en vogue in the ’80s, adding or installing a home theater in one’s home was the “it” indulgence of the past 20 or so years.
I’ll be the first to admit it, too—if you are or were at all a fan of home theater, the past 10 or so years have been pretty exciting. Many in the field probably wish they could go back in time to, say, 2003 and stay there, for being in the home theater business back in ’03 was good—real good. But just like Hollywood’s many booms, the home theater boom didn’t—or better yet—couldn’t last. With the collapse of the housing market and subsequent downturn in the economy, many who believed the ride would last forever soon found themselves on a rollercoaster without a great deal of track.
It’s not as if the notion of owning a home theater died with the economy—it didn’t, for you can’t truly kill an idea or concept. No, what is happening to home theater is that it’s being forced to evolve. For the better part of the last 20 years, home theater has been about the gear, not content.
Consumers were sold almost exclusively on the idea that more was simply more—more screen, more power, more speakers etc. There are still traces of that mentality with us today, though none of it—and I mean this with all sincerity—none of it is aimed at actually providing the viewer—aka the customer—with an equal level of more enjoyment. But then again we’ve always been a culture obsessed with more, even when we don’t have the means to obtain it. We crave more so much that we’re willing to overlook simple facts that otherwise prove that more doesn’t actually equal more.
That is what I mean when I say home theater isn’t perfect. It’s also what I’m talking about when I suggest that home theater may be in as much trouble going forward as commercial cinemas find themselves in today. Know that when I talk like this, given my position within the industry, many in my field tense up. I don’t say these things just to get a rise out of folks, but a certain level of “shaking the tree” is required to break people out of their often archaic ways of thinking.
I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a need for high-priced electronics—hell, I own a $28,000 SIM2 M.150 projector. It’s just for too long the only answer has been…
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