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How to Measure for Home Theater Seating

Measuring for Home Theater Seating Header

Building your own home theater space can be one of the most exciting and rewarding home improvement projects you ever undertake. We have compiled some factors to take into consideration when planning your space and deciding how many home theater seats you need. This will ensure that you get the most out of your home theater space.

Audience Size

Audience Watching Home Theater Screen

The first thing to consider is how many people you want to fit in your home theater. Do you prefer small intimate screenings, or a large roomful of people? Either way, the answer to this question will be largely determined by the size of your home theater area. Select a room that is large enough to fit your crowd comfortably, or if you are working with a large empty space like an unfinished basement, allocate enough square footage to fit the number of seats that you need. Don't forget to include space for things like your home theater equipment and optional furniture like a concession stand, bar or tables.

Distance from the Screen

Screen size is also going to be a factor in your design. According to the Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers, or SMPTE, each theater seat should have a view of the entire screen that is within a 30 degree field of view. It is important to determine the maximum and minimum distances. Viewers sitting too close may experience discomfort and eyestrain, while seats set too far away lose the benefits of HD and widescreen resolution.

NOTE: The suggestions below are designed to give you a basic idea of dimensions. If you want more precise measurements, we recommend that you reference the Microsoft Excel-based calculator by Carlton Bale.

The easiest way to determine minimum and maximum distances from the screen, follow this simple formula: Take the horizontal length of your screen (NOT the diagonal length). Multiply the length by 2 to get the minimum distance, and multiply by 5 to get the maximum distance. For example:

Example of Optimal Distances for Home theater Seat Rows from Screen

Other factors like the lighting in the room, brightness of the screen and HD technology will also affect these distances. For best results, be sure to test the view of each seat, especially if you plan to attach them to the floor.

Number of Seats per Row

The next step is to determine the number of home theater seats you can fit in each row. You will want to be sure that you leave enough space for people to get past. We recommend that you leave at least 20 inches of space on either side of the row.

Home theater seats are measured from "center-to-center", meaning from the center of one armrest to the center of the other. Multiply that amount by the number of chairs you desire to see if they fit. Here is a simple formula to help you:

Diagram for Determining Number of Seats per Row

Space Between Rows

While maximizing the space in your home theater area, you will want to make sure that you leave at least 20 inches between rows. This will give people plenty of space to get to their seat. Here are some easy steps to help you determine spacing:

Diagram Explaining the Proper Amount of Space Between Rows

NOTE: If you need more room, you can decrease the space between rows. Just make sure that you do not make it less than 14 inches. This is the minimum space for comfortable access.


Riser Platform Under Home Theater Seat

If you have more than one row of theater seats, you may want to place risers under the back rows. This gives every viewer a clear view of the screen and makes your home entertainment space more like a commercial theater.

Risers are low platforms built under your home theater seats to raise them higher than the row in front. A good basic height for risers is 12 inches (1 foot) per row, or if you need more precise measurements, Carlton Bale's aforementioned calculator has a section to help you determine this height.

Other Considerations

Row of Three Curved Home Theater Seats

Place your home theater seats in an arc rather than a straight row. This ensures that everyone gets a great view of the screen. Most home theater seating products have optional wedge arms to create a curved row.

The lighting of your home theater space is very important, make sure that you install even lighting that is not too bright or dim, and can be dimmed for the appropriate movie theater effect. Have a look at this great article on home theater room lighting ideas.

Wait until your home theater seat design is finalized before installing your speaker setup. This way, you can ensure that your speakers will be properly adjusted for your seating area. Here is some great information on setting up your home theater speaker system.


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