Making a Movie Theater: An At-Home DIY

As vaccinations become more widespread, you may have noticed that movie theaters finally begin to reopen. Still, not everyone will feel immediately comfortable attending movies in person. Maybe you aren’t vaccinated yet, still think an indoor, poorly ventilated space seems unsafe or just really like watching movies at home. For those who do opt out of in-person movie theaters in the near future and feel envious of others opting in, here are some ways to make your at-home experience feel just like a real movie theater!

I have always been someone who loved going to the movies with friends or family. When this became impossible during the pandemic, I adapted and started watching movies at home instead. When watching movies, alone or with my family, I tried my best to recreate the movie theater experience, using many of the following techniques. Because of how pleasant the at-home movie theater can be — and because of how much less expensive it is — I will definitely continue to watch movies at home instead of in theaters, especially because most new movie releases are no longer theater-exclusive. 

The money-saving element of the at-home movie experience is not something to shrug off. Not only do movie tickets range from $12 to $30 per person, snacks at theaters are also incredibly overpriced. At home, movie rentals are only about three or four dollars for the whole group, and snacks can be purchased at a much lower price from a grocery store. 

So, how can you make your home feel like a movie theater? The first step might be the hardest, but you can do the same as a theater, and ask everyone  to turn off and put away their phones. It can be tempting to check your texts, scroll through social media or even play a game on your phone during wordy exposition. However, one of the main benefits of being at a movie theater is to focus all of your attention on the big screen. By keeping your phone far away from you at home, you will be able to replicate that immersion experience and appreciate the movie more.

The next step is to dim the lights around you. Even movie theaters sometimes feel too dark, but at home, people often forget to turn off any lights at all. By setting the ambience, you are imitating a key feature of movie theaters. 

Another (occasionally annoying) aspect of movie theaters is just how loud the movies play. While you should (obviously) keep the movie at a bearable volume, turning it up a bit higher than you normally would helps enhance your at-home movie theater simulation. If it seems like the sound is loud enough to reach people sitting in rows far behind you, you might actually believe there are people sitting in rows behind you. 

Now for the most crucial part of the whole experience: snacks and drinks. No movie theater experience is complete without popcorn, candy and soda. But to truly embody the theater, not just any candy will do. Buttery popcorn, which can be microwave popcorn, is a must. No healthy alternatives will suffice. My favorite movie theater snack is Junior Mints, but any chocolate or candy in a box instead of a bag absolutely gives off movie theater vibes. Pick your favorite! If you need suggestions, I recommend Peanut M&M’s, Whoppers or Sour Patch Kids. Finally, to complete the cinematic snack experience, drink soda out of a big cup with a lid and straw. While you probably don’t have drink holders on your chairs at home, you can rest your drink on a table next to you. When you reach for it, it feels just like it would at the theater.

Now you have the perfect recipe to make your living room or dorm room feel like a movie theater! Even just one or two of these tricks can help you feel like you are surrounded by strangers as the lights dim and the movie can be heard all around you, instead of just being at home, alone watching on a laptop in bed. Next time you watch a movie at home, try these out even if you are a little skeptical! You may like it more than you expect.