The lights are low, the volume's up, and a great film is playing on the big screen — you can't go wrong with a movie night. However, a trip to the movie theater can be expensive, it's not always showing something you want to see, and you have to leave the comfort of your own home. Sometimes, a home movie night is the superior option, but what makes a great one?
Of course, you want some quality tech to watch and listen to your chosen movie, but there's more to it than that. A range of factors must align for the perfect movie night. If you're not sure how to achieve it, we've got you covered.
What makes a great movie night?
Before you buy anything or invite your friends over, you need to understand the most important elements of a top-notch movie night. Here they are in no particular order:
A big TV
You might still be able to have a fun time watching a movie on a tiny 20-inch screen, but it won't rival a trip to the cinema. If you're serious about hosting movie nights — or just watching a large number of movies in general — opt for the biggest television you can afford without sacrificing picture quality.
It's not just a big screen that makes a movie theater experience special, it's the booming sound, too. If you have the budget, a surround sound system is your best bet, but a quality sound bar is a decent compromise.
The right lighting
You're not going to have that movie-going ambience with a bright overhead light blazing. Switch off the lights or use a lamp with a dimmer switch, if you don't want to forgo illumination altogether. If it's still light outside, some blackout curtains are a must-have.
An excellent movie
You might have all the best equipment, but if the only movies you own are Deck the Halls and Dirty Grandpa, you've run into a problem. Today, the majority of people use subscription services or buy films digitally, but if DVDs are your bag, that's fine, too. You might want to watch a new release or a classic picture — the beauty of a movie night is that the choice is yours.
A carefully selected guest list
It's alright if you want a guest list of one: you. However, movie nights can make great social occasions. Just tailor the guest list to the movies you've selected. You might not want to invite your grandma to a Tarantino marathon.
Tasty movie snacks
Let's face it, the snacks alone are what draw people to the movie theater, but you can eat classic movie theater snacks in your living room. Popcorn, red vines, nachos ... the culinary world is your oyster (though oysters aren't great movie snacks).
For those who want the biggest screen
For a truly immersive movie-watching experience, you can't beat the Samsung QN82Q6 82" QLED 4K UHD 6 Series Smart TV. It certainly comes with a high-end price tag, but the 82-inch size is enormous and the picture quality is exceptional. If you don't have the budget or the space for such a large TV, you can buy it in smaller sizes, too. Alternatively, you could opt for a home projector. The ViewSonic Shorter Throw Home Theater Projector is an excellent mid-range choice.
For the audiophiles
Perhaps you already have a great TV but your sound system needs a boost. Those looking for a high-end surround sound system can't do much better than the Klipsch 5.1 RP-280 Reference Premiere Speaker Package, while the Logitech Z906 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker System is a more affordable option. A high quality sound bar such as the Sonos Playbar or the Bose Solo 5 is also an excellent choice.
For people who care more about snacks
There's no shame in caring more about the snacks you can share on your movie night than the sound quality or the size of the screen. If you can't resist a bowl of freshly-popped popcorn, the Cuisinart CPM-100MR is our favorite popcorn maker. Or, if you want to go all out, the Great Northern Popcorn Machine and Cart gives you a true vintage movie theater vibe. Make sure you've got plenty of bowls to hold chips and dip or anything else you might be serving. You could even buck tradition and serve up tacos in this Stylish Stainless Steel Taco Holder from California Home Goods.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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Photos (onion dip, nachos): Ramona King