Once, we thought of home theaters quite literally. We conceived of small cinemas built inside the homes of the wealthy utilizing movie theater projectors and traditional "silver screens." These so-called screening rooms were the home theaters of the past. They were built with stadium style seating and movie theater chairs. It was like having your own little Dickinson Theater in the basement of you mansion.
As time has passed, though, our outlook toward home theaters has changed considerably. Now, when one hears of a home theater they don’t think of Howard Hughes watching the latest Hollywood releases in his custom made theater. Instead, they think of themselves or their neighbors enjoying a rental with a combination of stellar video and crisp audio.
This transformation occurred with the advance of technology and its increased accessibility. At one point, televisions of any form were a luxury. Many people today can still remember with fondness the first television to enter their neighborhood or home. The enjoyment television brought increased demand for TV sets and as more competitor entered the marketplace, prices gradually dropped. Today, one can find a small black and white portable television for under $20. Even color televisions can be found today for well under one hundred dollars.
As time passed, the quality of televisions improved. First, pictures became clearer. Then, color television and color television broadcasting were introduced. With more programming offered in full color and more people watching television, its popularity continued to snowball.
There’s no doubt that the television explosion changed the motion picture industry. The cheaper productions that had been used to fill afternoon matinees slowly began to disappear. In order for Hollywood to compete with television, the movies had to offer more than what you could find in your own living room.
The movies found their niche, television found its own, and things progressed nicely. As cable television entered the picture and exploded, however, the movie industry took another blow. Through careful arrangements between studios and cable channels however, television soon became the place where movies landed after their theater run. Movies also found a way to become residual earners thanks to videotape (and later, DVD) rentals.
Recently, though, the equation changed again. The technology was now available to duplicate many of the previously unique aspects of the movie theater experience. Proper ratio could be used in video, and the quality of the televisions themselves was growing by leaps and bounds. Additionally, it became possible for movie theater quality audio to move into the home thanks to surround sound systems and other consumer electronics components.
Today’s home theater is something of a return to the original idea of a home theater. It is a spot carved out for the enjoyment of movies in a manner that duplicates the motion picture experience. Once upon a time, that duplication was quite literal--with projectors and large screens on walls. Today, the re-creation of the movie experience is accomplished electronically with plasma monitors, high-powered amplifiers and impressive arrays of home speakers that deliver sound every bit as good as you will find in the Cineplex.
We are, in a way, back at the beginning. The difference, however, is that home theaters are no longer the exclusive property of the wealthy. They are, instead, becoming increasingly affordable and surprisingly economical. Technological advances have brought the toy of the rich into the hands of virtually everyone
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