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While some movie theaters across the U.S. have been able to open at limited capacity, the fact of the matter is that there’s no predicting when moviegoing will be able to go back to normal. Which means that renting movies at home — or watching new releases on streaming services like HBO Max or Disney+ — is going to be our new normal for quite a while now.
That’s why now is the perfect time to upgrade your home theater for your 2021 movie viewing needs. Whether you have an actual home theater room (congratulations!) or it’s really just a corner of your one-room apartment, you can purchase a few key accessories that will make your home movie viewing process as cinematic as possible. Maybe not quite theatrical enough for Christopher Nolan, but we’re all doing our best here, okay?
For starters, you’re going to need to be able to access these films. Warner Bros. is releasing its entire 2021 theatrical slate on streaming service HBO Max, where the films will be available for viewing at no extra cost for one month after their release dates. (Yes, that includes mega blockbusters like “Dune,” “In the Heights,” “Godzilla vs. Kong,” and “Matrix 4.” If you don’t have a subscription to HBO Max, you can sign up here — the monthly rate is $14.99 and you can cancel at any time.
You’re also going to want Disney+ — while Disney hasn’t revealed all of its release plans for the year, it’s likely that new releases will wind up on the streaming service whether at no additional cost to subscribers, like Christmas release “Soul,” or at a $29.99 Premier Access premium, like “Raya and the Last Dragon” or 2020’s live-action “Mulan.” Sign up here for just $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year (or bundle with Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99 per month and up). If you don’t have Hulu, plans start at $5.99 per month.
After that, you’ll need to decide which setup is best for you. Do you want to make sure you have the highest of HD capabilities on your television? Then you might want to invest in a 4K ultra-HD TV. Do you have an extra room or area where you can get a little fancier? Then a projector/screen combo might be for you. (“A Ghost Story” director David Lowery opts for that — click here to find out what’s in his home theater setup.)
Read on for the best options.
You might’ve taken the opportunity to upgrade your TV during a Black Friday sale, but if not there are still plenty of deals to be found. The below options come in a variety of sizes and price points to fit whatever situation you’re working with.
This Insignia comes in 43″, 50″, 55″, 65″, and 70″ sizes. Each option features 4K UHD with a 60 Hz refresh rate, three HDMI ports, built-in Amazon Fire TV, voice remote with Alexa (and optional hands-free control when paired with an Echo device), and DTS Studio sound.
Similarly, this Samsung comes in a variety of sizes (43″, 50″, 55″, 65″, 75″, and 85″). It’s got 4K UDH and an ultra-fast processor with automatic 4K AI upscaling (so your resolution is upgraded no matter what you’re watching), built-in Alexa, smart TV apps powered by Tizen, and a crisp, clear, crystal display with HDR.
Step it up a level with this Sony model, which is powered by the company’s X1 4k HDR processor and includes a triluminos display, full array LED with local dimming, game mode, HDMI 2.1, and built-in Google Assistant as well as Alexa compatibility. It comes in 55″, 65″, 75″, and 85″ models.
Wanna splurge? Sony’s best processor (the X1 Ultimate, which also sounds like an energy drink) will help bring out OLED’s intense contrast (as well as upscale everything you’re watching to 4K). It’s also got game mode, a smart TV interface with Google Assistant, plus compatibility with Alexa and Apple Airplay 2. You’ll get 2.1 channel sound from the entire screen for “an immersive multidimensional audio experience,” plus Dolby Vision and IMAX enhanced modes all in a super-slim, attractive design.
A true 4K projector is definitely going to set you back, but if you consider the amount of films you and your family will be able to watch in 2020 in their full glory from inside your home, it could potentially be worth it. Here are a couple of options.
The high brightness of this projector makes it ideal for a space that you can’t completely black out. You’ll get an immersive 4K UHD experience in 3500 lumens, which you can experience on a screen up to 300 inches. The high brightness is counteracted by a SuperEco mode that will shine for up to 15,000 hours, plus a three-year limited warranty (and one-year lamp warranty) means you will have a responsive customer service team at your disposal. It supports most media players, smartphones, tablets, and more with its HDMI and USB inputs. It comes with the projector, power cable, VGA cable, and remote control.
Okay, yes, this is definitely a splurge. But this top-of-the-line projector will give you true 4K Ultra HD with its six-segment color wheel, providing accurate cinematic color. PureMotion technology gives blur-free visuals, and it’s HDR-compatible with a high contrast ratio. More than 2000 lumens of brightness makes it ideal for any size home theater space, and a 15 percent vertical lens shift and 1.6x optical zoom make it easy to place anywhere in the room. A variety of inputs means it’s compatible with streaming devices, smartphones, computers, tablets, gaming consoles, and more.
If you’re investing in a projector, you’ll probably want something a little better than “bedsheet tacked to the wall” for your screen. Here are a couple of solid, high-quality options for you.
This fixed projector screen measures 110 inches diagonally (54” x 96″) with a 160-degree viewing angle and a 1.1 gain, plus a 2.7-inch black velvet border that absorbs projection overshoot for better viewing. The PVC WhiteOut surface is Active 3D ready and 4K friendly, and it’s easy to install with included sliding wall brackets, drywall anchors, and screws. You’ll get a three-year warranty with your purchase, too.
This, too, has a 160-degree viewing angle and a 1.1 gain, plus a 2 3/8-inch beveled aluminum frame wrapped in black velvet material to make your image really pop. It’s easily assembled with a tension rod system, plus secure mounting brackets that allow for horizontal adjustment.
SOUND BAR AND SPEAKERS
No matter which screen system you choose, you’ll want to make sure you have high-quality audio to match. This can be achieved with a sound bar attached to your nice, new, 4K TV, or with a set of speakers connected to your projector.
This combo will give you a 40-inch 2.1 sounder with eight-inch wireless subwoofer, 400W peak power, and a single-cable, single remote control system for both. It has 5.1 decoding for virtualized surround sound.
STREAMING DEVICE/BLU-RAY UPGRADES
Now that you have the rest of your tech set up, you’ll need a way to watch everything. If you’re not using a smart TV that comes with built-in apps, you’ll want a streaming device to do so. And you’ll also want to make sure you have a Blu-ray player that can handle 4K.
Save $10 on Amazon’s newest addition to the Fire TV family, which gives you everything the Fire TV interface does — easy access to apps, Alexa voice remote, and easily play 4K UHD, Dolby Vision, HDR, and HDR10+ content.
This 4K Blu-ray player also has streaming capability, dual HDMI outputs, an intuitive menu and interface, hi-res audio, wifi, and Bluetooth capabilities. It comes with a remote control and 4K HDMI cable so you don’t need to make any additional purchases to set it up.