I have a deep love and appreciation for movies shown in a cinema environment. It all started when I was a kid. What was not to love about this awe-inspiring experience, feeling the bass tremble as Tom Hanks took off in the fated Apollo 13 or getting transported into the vibrant world of Roger Rabbit? Maybe I’m showing my age, but I’m certainly not alone. My whole generation was captivated by the magic of the movie theater, and mounting numbers of us are investing in re-creating that experience at home.
While the last year has been a challenge on several different levels, it has been a watershed moment for in-home entertainment. Hollywood, Borehamwood, and Bollywood have all been warily tracking the gradual shift towards in-home viewing for several years: streaming services like Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video and Hulu all had significant subscribers pre-2019. The floodgates really opened right before and during the pandemic, though, with the launch of Disney+, Peacock, AppleTV+, HBO Max, and Britbox. The largest of the streaming providers aren’t just providing a platform for playback but making massive investments in original content. It is reported that Netflix spent $17 billion, Prime Video $11 billion, AppleTV+ $6 billion and Hulu $3 billion on content creation in 2021. These spending levels put the streaming providers on par with movie studios, and it shows: Netflix had 35 nominations at the 2021 Oscars. Cinema-quality content is now available at home, and it’s begging for a theatrical delivery experience.
Throughout the pandemic, we also saw big studios like Warner Brothers and Disney adopt a hybrid release strategy offering tentpole movies as part of subscription services as well as in traditional theaters. Reports stated that half of HBO Max subscribers tuned into Wonder Woman 1984 on its Christmas Day release. Once consumers got a taste of watching movies at home right as they release – for the same price or cheaper than going to the theater – they got hooked. As a result, the future of entertainment spaces in the home is getting a huge and much needed boost. A recent Parks Associates survey found that 56 percent of households now have a smart TV, but as more content becomes available, homeowners are going to be looking for ways to continue to upgrade their spaces.
For example, take advent of virtual watch parties. Axios reported on the watch party trend in October 2021, sharing that Internet companies are leaning into new services that add a social component to the otherwise isolated experience of staying home in front of a screen. Disney, an early leader of the trend, launched GroupWatch in 2020. Over the summer, Apple announced SharePlay, a live content-sharing feature via FaceTime, Netflix Party relaunched as "TeleParty." HBO Max launched a group watch party tool in conjunction with Snapchat in September 2021. As this trend takes hold, it’s easy to imagine that people might add conferencing features to their viewing spaces to make the experience more communal.
I personally think this only the beginning of the home theater’s reinvention, and a lot more innovation will emerge in the next several years. Entertainment rooms will go beyond viewing and watch parties to offer a fully immersive experience that’s not just for movies: they will be optimized for concerts, exercise, video games, and so much more. Integrators are poised to design these entertainment rooms as multi-use spaces. If you’re unsure where to start, I would suggest talking to CEDIA Propel Partner Immersive Gyms. Charles and his team have a deep understanding of the technology and space needs for these types of projects.
These multiuse spaces are only going to get more sophisticated. Already, we’re seeing early iterations of holodeck rooms that offer 3D projection mapping. Combining the trends of immersive entertainment and “watch party” communal consumption, it’s not hard to imagine that these spaces could change the way we collaborate and work from home as well. Why couldn’t a space with built-in conferencing capabilities that can transform into a movie set, racetrack, or hiking trail, also transform into boardroom? Innovation in the residential market is bound to cross over into new applications that we can only now begin to glimpse.
The future for home entertainment spaces is brighter than it has been for years, something every integrator should capitalize on. CEDIA offers an abundant catalog of resources for those looking to design entertainment spaces that will dazzle and delight. From hands-on training to best practice documents and whitepapers, and even the CEDIA Designer tool for home cinemas and media rooms, tap into these CEDIA member benefits to ensure that your next project brings these entertainment experiences to life for your clients.