From the Big Screen, to the TV, & Beyond: The History of the Home Theater

The term "home theater" has become a little bit archaic now with the advent of VOD platforms that allow you to watch films on computers and mobile devices, but still, the ability to watch films at home was a development that changed the world of cinema forever. In yet another excellent lesson, Filmmaker IQ brings us an exhaustive look inside the history of life before the home theater, the technology that made it possible, as well as the effects it has on our culture today.

According to Filmmaker IQ's lesson, film has definitely come a long way since its inception. What started out as a sideshow attraction, the Nickelodeon, films have become a rich, sophisticated, and artful medium. The way we experience movies today is diverse -- in theaters, TVs, computer screens, phones, drive-ins, projected on walls, so it's strange to think that for a long time, they were experienced almost exclusively in movie palaces and theaters.

For those of you who grew up in the 60s, you might remember what it was like sitting at home and watching Saturday Night at the Movies on TV. This was essentially the beginning of film's transition from the theater to the living room -- instead of being scheduled and released solely on the big screen, they were scheduled and aired on TV.

Just like the current state of film exhibition, studios and networks were looking for a way to offer films on demand to their audiences. VHS tapes and LaserDiscs were the Netflix and Amazon Instant Video of its time, giving viewers the option to rent and buy films and watch them at home in their respective players at their leisure.

And now, the "home theater" is becoming the "individual theater," with movies and TV shows available to be viewed by just one viewer on their computers or smartphones. These changes in exhibition pose many questions about the future of cinema. What effect do all of these different ways of watching films have on audiences? Will filmmaking ultimately change based on the way it will be exhibited, especially if the majority of viewers are watching movies meant for a large screen on their phones or computer screens?

Check out Filmmaker IQ's video below that digs deeper into the history of the home theater. Also, make sure to check out the written lesson for supplemental videos and pictures.

Video is no longer available:

What do you think? What's next for film exhibition, do you think? How have the ways we watch films changed the way we make them?

Link: The Evolution of Home Theater - Big Tech of the Small Screen -- Filmmaker IQ

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Your Comment


Rich fooks like Tarantino have an actual home theaters. Him being celluloid fanboy, of course he's film prints collector. Eww, take that digital crap away.

September 23, 2013 at 11:01PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


John, the real "home theater for everyone" began in force circa 1986 or so, when the first (3-channel : left, right, rear) surround sound processors/receivers came on the market. One of the more popular tapes of that era was "Top Gun" because it featured some pretty impressive - both visually and sonically - air battle scenes. All one had to do then was to run their stereo VCR's through their surround sound home stereo systems and the effect was immense. The high end consumer market then featured a projector, a scaler/line doubler and a laser disc. The rear projection and large CRT TV's began to take off around 1989.

September 23, 2013 at 11:27PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Top Gun was also pivotal because it was one of the first home video titles that was priced to own, not just to rent. It also featured a soda commercial before the movie...a bitter taste of things to come.

September 24, 2013 at 8:35PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Ya, I recall tapes being MSRP'd for $89.99 and then dropping to ~ $24.99 for the sell-through titles because the video stores still bought a lot more units than the consumers. Usually, there was a time gap of about two months between the price changes. A lot of folks couldn't wait and just copied the tapes from a VCR to a VCR (but that was more prevalent prior to the sell-through's). Then the retailers often sold their overstock for even less than the new MSRP.
And, now that I am reminded, there was a Coke ... scratch, Pepsi commercial prior to the beginning of the film, correct?

September 25, 2013 at 10:06AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM