Survey Suggests Media Rooms More Popular than Dedicated Theaters

Home theater encompasses a range of possibilities. For most enthusiasts it's a DIY affair. You choose your equipment, either piece by piece as funds allow or all at once. You decide on where you'll put it all, either in a separate, dedicated room or as part of a multipurpose, open concept space. The decisions are all yours, perhaps with a help from your Secretary of the Treasury and Monarch of Home Design.

A second route involves a knowledgeable homeowner who knows the subject well enough, but also realizes that building a home theater or media room is a bit more complicated than a simple DIY job — particularly if it must satisfy more than one person. If enough funds are available, a pro installer is hired to handle everything from the bare walls to the popcorn. This can be complicated if the buyer is a true A/V enthusiast who has strong ideas on the equipment to be chosen and how it will be set up.

As with any complex home improvement job, the final cost for a professional installation can change as the work progresses and additional complications crop up, such as unanticipated re-wiring or the inevitable buyer-generated "change orders." Such snags often increase the cost. There can also be delays if supply chain issues slow the acquisition of needed parts, particularly the electronics to be installed in the system. This can be an issue particularly if the buyer wants specific components and is unwilling to accept substitutes. But if everything goes well the results can be exceptional.

CE Pro magazine is a trade publication (print and digital) that covers the custom installation business. The latter involves almost any type of home installation that includes electronics. This can include more than just home theater, often branching out into home security or music distributed to all the rooms in a home with no video or "theater" involved (for the ultimate in elevator music!).

But home theater remains a key part of the custom installation business, and keeping track of market trends is important. In its May 2023 issue, CEPro ( published a wide range of statistics about the past year's (roughly 2022) custom home theater market (Home Theater Market Presenting Mixed Signals, by Jason Knott, CEPro's editor). Keep in mind that what I found there, and the slice of the results presented here (it takes up 8 pages in the magazine, with copious charts), apply only to statistics available from most of the largest custom installers in the U.S. and do not include the likely much larger, but impossible to reliably assess, DIY audience.

With that proviso, the custom install median (not average) price for a custom, dedicated home theater from the surveyed installers fell to under $44,000 in the past year, down 13% from 2021. But the median price for multipurpose theater rooms (a.k.a. media rooms) increased to just over $31,000, up by 14% from the previous year. Quoting median prices only, however, hides an important statistic: 38% of dedicated home theater installs (but only 14% of media rooms) were over $100,000. Nine percent of the home theater rooms and 7% of multimedia rooms in that group were over $200,000!

The median number of dedicated home theater installs for the year, by each of the surveyed installers, was five, while for multipurpose rooms it was seven. In 2021 the number of CE pros with no custom home theater installs was only 4% but jumped to 14% in 2022. But for multipurpose media room theaters the opposite was true: 14% with no installs in 2021 but only 6% with none in 2022. While these numbers aren't broad enough to be definitive, it's not a wild guess to say that the multipurpose media room is currently more popular (and certainly less pricey) than a dedicated home theater space. That won't be a surprise to most readers who, by and large, set up their own home theater systems.

While it isn't entirely clear, some of the stats appear to apply to the survey's combination of both media rooms and dedicated home theater spaces. The median number of loudspeakers employed (including subwoofers) was seven. That doesn't speak loudly for Dolby Atmos; only 6% of the reported installations included immersive audio. The median number of seats per theater was five; BTOC (Bring Your Own Chairs) to that Super Bowl party! Only 34% of installs included a projector. Conventional flat screen TVs of various descriptions were used in 58% of installs, and 8% were graced by microLEDs (that's the exotic, still crushingly-pricey, modular flat screen displays — not the more typical and affordable mini-LEDs that are included in the 58% group).

Interestingly, 22% of the reported home theaters include a soundbar, and 5% of the reported installs have only a soundbar. No offense to soundbars (many users, likely primarily in DIY setups, have and like them), but to dub a soundbar-only setup as a custom home theater is a bit of a stretch. It's possible, I suppose, that a pricey, decor-heavy, dedicated home theater may have only a soundbar as place holder, with future plans for a more traditional home theater audio setup when additional funds become available. One would hope that the needed wiring for such a future addition was done in the original install.

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mlmcjunkin's picture

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helloking's picture

@tunnel rush Among the issues you mentioned, I think the supply chain issue is the one that has the biggest impact in renovating the house.

Ehto's picture

Yes I believe media rooms are getting more popular nowadays. Mainly because you can use it for gaming. That's the set up we have in our office at Gutter Cleaning Newport. Thanks Sound & Vision for the installation!