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How to Measure and Maximize the Space Needed
for Seats in Your Home Theater?

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

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:

If your Screen is 70 inches
across :

Your first row of seats needs to be at least 140 inches, or 11 feet, 8 inches away from the screen.

Your last row of seats needs to be no further than 350 inches, or 29 feet , 2 inches away from the 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.

140” (70”x 2)

20”

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:

If your home
theater seats
are 22 inches
wide apiece:

And your Home theater space is 11 feet(132 inches) wide:
1. Subtract 40 from the room space (132-40=92 inches) This gives us enough space on either side of the row.

2. Divide this new number by the home theater chair width to get the number of seats (92 divided by 22 = 4.18, or 4 theater seats).

3. You will also need to factor in the width of one armrest to the theater seat row. A good standard size is about 8 inches, or check your seat’s manual for the right width.


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:

1. Determine the total length of each theater seat.

2. Add 20 inches between each seat for the row space.

3. If your seats recline, determine the recline length of each set to make sure they do not overlap.

4. If they do not overlap, increase the row space slightly until they no longer touch.

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.


RISERS

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

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.

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.