Home theater systems have a recent history of rapid advancement, but the predecessors behind the technology stretch back to the middle of the 20th century. Learn how they got their start and how fast they are changing with this brief history of the home theater and an overview of what home theater systems can offer now.

Spectacular Beginnings

In the late 1940s, movie production companies began to take huge losses in ticket sales as more homes purchased televisions. To compete, they created “spectacle” cinema with ultra-wide formats like Cinemascope and Panavision. Along with the wider screens came extra theater speakers placed behind the screen, to the sides and even behind the audience, simulating the effect of the on-screen action surrounding you on all sides.

These technologies were miles away from the dim, tiny, often black-and-white TV pictures people viewed in their homes at the time. Some people showed 8mm projected home movies, and others had enough money to afford the professional projection equipment used by actual theaters, but the market for consumer home theater as we know it today was non-existent.

Theater Comes Home

art deco home theaterThe release of VHS (and Betamax) systems in the late 70s created the beginnings of the home theater market, and the growth of Quadraphonic sound systems expanded it. However, it was not until the 80s when people began to combine top-end components to form a theater-like experience for viewing movies in the home. Laserdiscs and the advent of Dolby Surround Pro-Logic consumer systems allowed for high-quality sound and picture.

Many cite the 1982 Summer Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago as the first moments that the concept of marketing such systems to the public hit mainstream. By the mid-90s, people could obtain TVs and home audio systems at a variety of price points, with most high-end consumer systems using projection TVs and Dolby Pro-Logic enabled audio.

The Home Theater Digital Revolution

DVDs and 5.1 surround sound were the true birth of the home theater market as we know it. These digital formats could compress picture from projection size into a 27 inch or larger screen without the dimness or loss in quality caused by their analog counterparts. Widescreen televisions began to emerge to accommodate more cinema-like aspect ratios. Sales of home theater fixtures like theater-style reclining chairs and soundproofed rooms grew.

High definition TV set this market aflame, with consumers scrambling for a set that could provide them new experiences across a spectrum of price ranges. Suddenly, cinephiles were not the only ones worried about getting the best picture and sound from their home theater setup.

Present-Day Home Theater Looks Like a Glimpse Into the Future

Streaming video and the integration of computer-like video inputs, such as Apple TV, have allowed many home theater aficionados to shed their media collection in favor of nearly infinite choices in high definition entertainment. Homes have begun to incorporate media rooms as a separate concept from the traditional living room, a place specifically geared for enjoying movies, video games and TV.

New technologies like 4k video, curved TVs and 3D-enabled sets offer more choices than ever for how to advance your viewing experience. Automated lighting and shading systems have become more sophisticated, integrated and in many versions more affordable. Connected systems mean that home theater investments can do more than sit in a dark room, playing music that follows you around the house or letting you stream Netflix from the Xbox One half a house away.

In short, home theater now offers so much more than you could get at the actual theater down the road. Take a look at our Atlanta home theater design and installation services to see what your custom home theater could have in store for you.