In the spring of 2011 I upgraded our little family room in the corner of the basement to more of a dedicated home theater. Nothing major; some absorptive sound treatment, built in surround speakers and painted it all black. Between the kids and their video games and the wife and I with movies the room is used daily. The equipment is nothing special, but performs well from a value standpoint.
(Ah, how things change. Fast forward 5 years to 2016. Though the wife and I still use the theater nightly the kids only use it now and then as a post-party crash pad for their drunk friends. I will be glad when these transition years are over.)
Aug 07, 2017 update: Due to a kid moving back home after college I temporarily gave up my theater room in January and have been watching on a make shift system in my upstairs living room until today. Tomorrow my youngest heads off to university so my theater is free of children once again.
What is the most cost effective theater upgrade you can make? Just close the door for 7 months. I was afraid that abstinence would reset my ear, allowing me to hear coloration that I had become accustomed to during the evolution of my system. Or worse yet, perhaps I would think "What's the big deal?" and move back to the convenience of the upstairs system. Not a chance! For the reopening I chose World War Z which the wife and I have seen a dozen times. Right from the opening sequence I was grinning ear to ear. The impact of bass, the 3-dimensional sound, the accuracy of the front stage and the dynamics. Not to mention the image size and contrast provided by my blacked out room. It was sad to give up my room in January, even sadder that my baby is moving across the country, but I am looking forward to renewed enjoyment of my favorite hobby.
Total cost for room modifications and all equipment = approx $5000
Screen: 114"X55" constant area white over black spandex. ($100)
Source: Sony PS3 ($300)
Projector: BenQ W1070 - Great colors but poor blacks. Noisy. ($850)
Receiver: Pioneer 7.1 receiver ($400)
Speakers: As of July 2016 3 X Behringer B215XL across the front ($700) and decent hi-fi speakers I have collected over the years for side and rear surrounds.
Subwoofers: 4 X DIY Infinity 1262W in 6 cuft boxes (4.5 net) tuned to 18 Hz. One in each corner of the room. ($500)
Sub amp: Behringer NU3000DSP as of August 2016 ($400)
Seating: Reclining leather sofa and a couple comfy chairs.
Original screen setup. 16X9 106" diagonal Accuscreen AT recessed about 6" with room on either side for my angled left and right speakers. Aesthetically pleasing but I wanted more screen.
Screen Upgrade: Pulled forward 6" and increased by 18" in width, from 96 to 114". Went with white over black spandex to improve black level for the DLP projector.
A 6 cuft ported sub in each corner of the room. MAJOR upgrade from my original 10" Paradigm DSP3100.
Yes, the light colored couch has been replaced with a dark one.
I need to update this picture with my new trio of Behringer's. Ugly but imposing.
Custom angled cabinets built for side and rear surrounds.
Subs - Four DIY 6.0cuft (4.5cuft net) tuned to 18Hz and loaded with Infinity 1260W 12" drivers.
Maximum output. Gold trace - dead center of room. Green trace - center seat against back wall.
Look what my wonderful wife bought for our main bathroom! (Feb 2015)