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What is a Media Room—and Is It a Good Idea for Your Home?

by Karl Kennedy


There’s a lot of discussions out there about home theaters and whether they’re a good investment in a home. The media room, though, gets a lot less attention—and that’s a shame because it’s arguably a better investment for a homeowner. 

A home theater is a space built specifically for watching movies, but a media room is a multi-use space. You can watch movies there, but you can also play games and entertain. You can think of it more like a living room with high-tech upgrades to the sound and screen. 

Why is this better than a home theater? Let’s take a look at some of the advantages from both a use and a resale perspective. 

Advantages of a Media Room

  • It’s more versatile. This is the biggest advantage of media rooms versus home theaters. Rather than rows of theater seating in complete darkness—the ideal for theaters—they accommodate a variety of seating arrangements and uses. This means they can even work for games that take up a lot of space, like home golf simulators (you can find golf simulators projectors buyer’s guide here) or immersive dance and workout games, something you can’t do in a home theater with built-in seating. 
  • They have a better return on investment. Depending on the neighborhood and market, a luxury addition like a home theater may not add much at all to the selling price. A media room, though, offers more use options and is more appealing to a wider range of buyers, and that can give your home’s value a good boost—especially if it’s built into an otherwise unused space, like a basement, den, or extra bedroom. 
  • It encourages socialization. The vibe in home theaters is supposed to be as close as possible to a movie theater. That usually means no talking or doing other things while you watch. A media room, on the other hand, is perfect for kids’ playdates, viewing parties, and family hangouts. For most, this means you’ll get more use out of it than a home theater.

How Much Does a Media Room Cost?

The answer to this question varies widely depending on two main factors: construction costs and the level of equipment you want to install. Let’s break down the typical major costs involved to give you a better idea of what to expect.

Construction and Space Improvement

If you already have an unused room in mind, the construction costs of setting up a home theater are minimal—in fact, you may not need to do anything to the space at all. Conversely, if you’re finishing a basement or building an addition, that can cost anywhere from $5,000-$100,000, depending on how much work the space needs. 

Projector and Screen

You can get a pretty good projector for around $500-$1,500 these days. You’ll want to look for something with a relatively high lamp brightness (around 3,000 lumens or more), as well as a low input lag for gaming (under 30ms for the best playing experience). Add another $100-$200 for a quality screen.

Sound

For most media rooms, a 5.1 surround sound system will give you the immersive experience you’re looking for. Larger spaces may want to go with a bigger 7.2 system. In either case, the budget starts at around $100 on the low end. If you want audiophile-level sound quality, budget more in the neighborhood of $1,000-$3,000. 

Furnishings 

If you’re mostly building the media room for kids, bean bag chairs are excellent low-cost seating options. Gamers may want to consider a few gaming chairs—they’re a bit pricier, but have helpful features like built-in speakers. The best options are lightweight and can be easily moved to give you more open space when you want it. A budget of $30-$100 per seat is a good estimate. 

The Bottom Line

If you enjoy watching movies and TV or playing games, it can add a lot of value to your life to have a dedicated room for it. For those who have been considering a home theater but aren’t sure how much they’d use it, a media room could be the perfect alternative.