Are you sitting comfortably? Home cinema seating explained

Because the most important part of your setup is not your BD spinner or PJ, but where you sit...

From a lack of legroom to unforgiving upholstery, we’ve all had a movie experience affected by an uncomfortable seat. At your local cinema this is just about sufferable, but in your own room it shouldn't be tolerated – spending thousands of pounds on AV hardware and software but ignoring where you park your fundament is home cinema heresy. The good news is that there are numerous options available, suited to most budgets and tastes, so before you start saving for a 4K projector, perhaps it's time for a seating upgrade...

Premium propositions

The first thing to appreciate is that the dedicated seating featured in the professional installations showcased in HCC doesn't exactly come cheap. Anyone hoping to snap up a row of full-size leather recliners for the price of a BD player is going to be disappointed. However, once you get your head around that and look at seating in the long-term, the value for money begins to become apparent. For instance, assume you'll be using your new luxury chair to watch three movies a week. That's six hours. Over a year, 312 hours. A £1,000 recliner is therefore costing you just over £3 per hour – but over five years (the length of a typical warranty) it's a mere 60p-per-hour approx. And why stop at five years? A decent chair should last you much longer, as long as you're careful not to spill fizzy pop all over it, of course – that's where the drinks holders come in handy.

Renowned brands include the likes of FrontRow, Signature, Fortress Seating, Palladio and Cineak, all distributed in the UK by specialist dealers rather than your high-street furniture shop. Prices can begin at around £800 for a manual reclining single seat if you stick to standard leather, more if you specify custom finishes where offered or want motorized control and other accessories.

With the various options offered by these dedicated brands it's straightforward to arrive at exactly the seating configuration you want. Signature seating employs a wedge piece to enable curved rows, while FrontRow's truly modular approach means you can mix and match twin seats, singles and left and right end pieces to create bespoke setups. Both Cineak and Fortress Seating sell cinema sofas with elongated bases – glamorous movie-watching beds, in other words.

And, if you're really pushing the boat out, you can even get something really bespoke. Fancy a specialist chair styled to look like a Ferrari seat? No problem – you just need big pockets. Pulse Marketing, the UK distributor of Fortress Seating, was called upon to do exactly that, and designed an eye-catching model with carbon fibre-wrapped rear and side panels, and Alcantara fabric armrests and main seat. The price approached £15,000, although we're told 'this could have been reduced greatly if more affordable materials had been chosen.'

Team HCC has been fortunate enough to relax in these types of home cinema-specific chairs on numerous occasions, and the feeling is always the same – pure comfort and luxury. So if you want the ultimate experience, and want to impress visitors, dedicated recliners ought to be at the top of your wishlist. 

But there's a caveat, beyond budget considerations, and that's size. As an example, the Napoli by Palladio measures a full 820mm in width, and for some movie rooms – a garage conversion, perhaps – fitting more than two in a row could be problematic. Before buying any new seating, you need to measure up and consider how many people you want to be able to accommodate in your setup. Inviting your friends over for movie night will only be a success if there are enough chairs to go around.

An alternative, then, is more traditional-style cinema seats, even if they might look a little out of kilter with the rest of your setup. They are thinner, more affordable and better for rooms where space is at a premium.

Again, FrontRow seating is worth investigating here. Its Roma range begins at around £290 for a chair with standard fabric upholstery (in red, blue or black); velour and faux leather options bump up the price somewhat. A drinks holder is incorporated, and additional extras include headrests and chair plinths for a sleek mounting option.

Going retro

If you're opting for that multiplex feel, then there's a healthy second-hand market in vintage seating. Get online and you can find all manner of Golden Age of Cinema chairs up for sale – eBay is a good place to start your search. How much you pay depends, of course, on whether there’s a reserve price, how many other people are interested and the condition of what you’re buying – and with the latter you should be prepared to accept considerable wear and tear (including cigarette burns!). Clicking on Sold Listings gives you an idea of how much items are actually selling for – we found trios of early/mid 20th Century seats had been snapped up for anything from £50 to £200.

Aside from the less-than-pristine condition of much hand-me-down seating, you need to consider whether they will actually be comfortable enough for you, will suit your room’s décor and whether the bargain price is really worth it when you add in delivery or collection costs. Bear all that in mind and you might find just what you’re looking for.
In fact, auction sites like eBay are also a great place to pick up modern cinema chairs at a reduced cost. Be prepared for a few scuff marks and, more often than not, organising your own collection, and you could pick up some luxury furniture that, for one reason or another, is no longer wanted.

On the high street

If you want brand-new and have a tight budget, it's worth checking out regular high street retailers. Even Argos stocks comfy recliners that will do the job of imitating a high-end cinema chair without actually being one (and not being real leather), and for some installations a traditional sofa could fit the bill, particularly if your movie den doubles as a media room/entertainment space. 

Whatever option suits you best, just make sure you're watching Blu-rays in comfort, not agony...

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