What it costs to build the ultimate home cinema

With major film studios opting to bring their big blockbusters to video streaming services on the same day as their theatrical releases, there has never been a better time to build your home cinema.

A plethora of movies, TV shows, documentaries and other video content are available to stream from services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Showmax, and with no waiting time.

Netflix in particular also offers high-quality original productions which are streamed exclusively on its service, while various other streaming services and production companies are pouring money into movies that will be available on the digital small screen first.

The price of a movie ticket is also relatively high, with Ster-Kinekor now asking R88 for a standard 2D movie.

That means a family of four will have to pay around R350 to go watch a movie in the cinema, and that’s before purchasing the expensive snacks that go along with it.

Added to this is the fact that Ster-Kinekor has had to enter business rescue and with only Nu-Metro and a few independent cinema companies left, opportunities to visit the cinema may become less.

Fortunately, display and sound technologies have rapidly developed to offer exquisite entertainment experiences at home, which means you don’t have to watch highly-anticipated films like Dune or Godzilla vs Kong on your laptop.

Resolution and size

High-fidelity video and audio are the key ingredients to a cinema-like experience.

In most cases, the display will be the most expensive part of your setup.

When it comes to resolution, 4K (or UHD) is widely considered to be the new standard for entertainment viewing – both for video and gaming.

There are several affordable 4K TV models on the South African market. However, most of these are only around 40 to 50 inches in size.

For an immersive viewing experience similar to a movie theatre, it is important that the size of your TV be as large as possible.

To determine the optimal size for your living room, you can use the TV size to distance calculator provided by rtings.com.

According to its figures, a room in which the seating is located more than 2 metres away from the TV would require at least a 50-inch display.

Where the distance goes beyond 3 metres, 70 inches or more is ideal.

Panel types

Other important attributes of the TV to carefully consider are the colour quality and contrast – which are typically determined by the panel type and design.

LG leads the market in this regard with its OLED panels, which offer the ability to switch each pixel on the screen on and off.

This allows for sharper highlights, deeper black levels, and overall better colour accuracy. However, these TVs are hard to come by in South Africa, particularly in larger sizes.

The world’s leading TV maker Samsung offers an alternative technology – QLED – which can be found at most major TV retailers in the country.

Instead of each individual pixel having the ability to light up or turn off, Samsung uses numerous dimming zones across the display to manage brightness.

This offers a premium image with stunning colours and high brightness in well-lit rooms.

Immersive sound

The second important component of your configuration will be the sound system.

The best cinemas are filled with loud, high-quality speaker and subwoofer systems to vibrate seats with loud bass produced by on-screen explosions, while also allowing moviegoers to hear the softest whispers clearly.

Conventional home theatre setups use multiple physical speakers to surround viewers with sound, and in many instances, they are still the superior and cheaper option.

However, most of these systems require great amounts of power and can take up a significant amount of space.

For a cleaner setup, it is recommended that you look at a top-end soundbar and subwoofer combination.

With virtual surround sound technology such as DTS and Dolby Atmos, these compact systems are highly capable of replicating the effects of a multi-speaker home theatre.

Five options

We’ve pre-configured five different home theatre setups which meet the criteria mentioned above, but which are suited to various budget levels.

The five budget categories we identified were as follows:

  • R15,000 – Budget-friendly
  • R30,000 – Above average
  • R50,000 – Balanced
  • R100,000 – Premium
  • Unlimited – True home theatre

The table below shows a number of possible combinations and their price relative to movie tickets.

Home theatre system costs 
Budget-friendly   R12,998 (148 movie tickets)
Hisense 58-inch 4K Smart TV R8,999
Sony 5.1-channel 600W Sound Bar HT-RT3 R3,999
Above average  R26,998 (307 movie tickets)
Samsung 65-inch 4K QLED Q60T R16,999
Sony 5.1 channel 1,000W Sound Bar R9,999
Balanced  R46,688 (531 movie tickets)
Samsung 75-inch 4K QLED Smart TV R26,999
Denon AVRX250BT and Polk Audio T-Series R14,590
GMI BD-U1000 Blu Ray Player R5,099
Premium R99,097 (1,126 movie tickets)
LG 75-inch 8K Nanocell TV R74,999
JBL Bar 9.1 True Wireless Surround R18,999
GMI BD-U1000 Blu Ray Player R5,099
True home cinema R1,234,399 (14,027 movie tickets)
Samsung 98-inch 8K QLED Q900R R999,999
Klipsch 7.2.2 Reference Premiere Home Theatre System R224,610
Yamaha BD-S681 Blu Ray Player R9,790

For the cost of our budget-friendly option, you would be able to buy almost 148 movie tickets.

A family of four who typically visits the cinema 15 times a year would have to buy 90 tickets in total during this time, spending R7,920 in total.

Snacks and drinks at home will likely also be far cheaper.

That means that you could pay off this system in less than two years with the savings made by not going to the cinema.


Above average 

Perfectly balanced

Premium power

True home cinema

A note on projectors

While there are several premium 4K projectors on the market which are capable of displaying much larger images than similarly-priced TVs at a cheaper price, the technology is still far behind backlit TVs in most instances.

Using a projector generally requires the room to be much darker than with a TV, which can limit your enjoyment of content depending on the time of day or layout of the room.

While there are certain projector technologies such as those used in Hisense’s Laser TVs which offer a greater level of brightness, they are the exception rather than the rule.

Now read: Big audio upgrade for Netflix on smartphones

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What it costs to build the ultimate home cinema