Theater Seating - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 02-09-2006, 06:00 PM - Thread Starter
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I have a room that is a little over 10' x 20'. I'm trying to figure out seating for it and was anticipating having a riser. Ideally I would like to seat 7 or 8, but I would settle for 5. For the front row I want 3 nice reclining seats, but would settle for a sofa if necessary. For the back row I have 3 or 4 old theater seats I am going to fix up. Does anyone have experience with seating in this size theater or recommend theater seating that wont destroy my budget? Also if there are any ideas about seating configurations, I would appreciate it.

Thanks,
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post #2 of 5 Old 02-09-2006, 07:35 PM
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Seating is very personal. Everybody has different tastes. Thing to do is determine your budget and your needs, then get the seating that fits both. Think about how many people you will *realistically* have watching the majority of time and calculate from there. Most folks who build reasonably serious theaters do end up going with theater recliners for the combination of comfort and looks. It is just more comfortable to put your feet up to watch a 2 or 3 hour flick. A couch can work well but you may want to look into either a reclining couch or an ottoman. This may end up taking up more space. As for how many seats you can fit, there are some good general rules to follow to determine how many seats can go into a given space...

1) You need a passage way between the seat and wall for access/egress to/from the back row. This is also a safety issue in case you need to get out of the room quickly. I normally spec in a minimum of 20" clearance with most of my designs. This means you need to subtract that from your room width to get your maximum seating width and calculate up how many seats will fit. If you and your guests tend to be a bit larger in girth...adjust. Easy thing to do is take a tape measure, put it against an existing wall, measure out the distance you are thinking of, put a chair between the wall and that point and try to walk thru that space. If you are okay with it...cool. If it is uncomfortable or you feel like you are squeezing thru...give yourself more room.

2). You will want a riser platform if you go with two rows of seats. Check the riser calculator sticky at the beginning of the forum. Remember to adjust for little ones...they need to be able to see the screen too! Riser depth is also personal taste, but I normally stick with 6 ft as a minimum. This allows you enough room for most types of seats (couch/theater recliners) and enough to exit the platform comfortably. Fixed theater style seating can use a more narrow platform, but is probably the least desirable type of seat and you may want to plan for the future for replacement (be honest, wouldn't you rather recline in a nice theater recliner or kick back on a couch?). It is good if your back row is going to be auxillery seating and not often used. There are also Uber Beanbag chairs...ala Cuddlebags, which are a good cheap way of adding seating. They are great for "youts", but they are more difficult for older folk to get in an out of :confused:

3) Don't forget safety with your platform! Edge and/or step lighting is a must...nothing ruins your movie watching experience more than a guest with a broken leg or concussion from falling off the platform. Definitely not the type of impact you want in your theater.

4) If you are going to build a platform...prewire for shakers.

"Did you make 'em fine-ass-soundin' speakers over there what would sound gooder than hell comin' out of the back of my truck-boat-truck?"

-Early Cuyler. Poet Liquoreate
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post #3 of 5 Old 02-10-2006, 09:50 AM
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I don't have any experience to offer concerning how many theater recliners will fit in the space you have available. I will comment on the number. I don't have a dedicated room. My space is a basement that is about 15 ft. at the point the dipole surrounds are mounted, so I didn't have width worries. I put in a love seat/sofa type of unit. Each end has reclining capability and the middle is fixed. It is probably built for 3 but 4 can fit if the people on the ends don't mind sharing the foot-rest.

Normally there are 2 people watching movies in my theater. However when I have company there are usually 2 more people. Therefore I would have concerns about having the primary seating set up for 3. That would mean the 4th person would be the odd man out.

Just a thought
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post #4 of 5 Old 02-10-2006, 09:59 AM
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If you are trying to determine what sort of seating arrangement will fit into your space, you may want to dry Berkline's website. There is a helpful design tool that you can put together any number of combination of seating configurations (sort of a click and drag tool) and it will tell you the overall width and depth of the seating.
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post #5 of 5 Old 02-11-2006, 12:53 PM
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Those on-line "design" tools can be a little misleading as they are intended to sell a particular product. There are many different seating solutions on the market. There are at least seven things to consider with respect to seats and platforms:

1. How big would you like the audience to be? Keep in mind that its not always wise to put in as many chairs as the room can hold and dont forget about big over-stuffed pillows for the younger viewers.

2. What kind of chairs will you be using? Will they be reclining loungers, folding theater seats, non-motion loungers with ottomans, bar stools, or perhaps a sleeper sofa? You should make this decision early in the game and stick to it. You may combine different seating types. For example, the back row may consist of folding theater chairs and the front row may have reclining loungers.

3. How much space will the chairs take up and how much room will they require to recline (assuming you choose recliners)? On a side note, I strongly recommend that you consider having at least one love seat in your configuration. Loveseats provide intimacy if you want to snuggle and they give you space to curl up your feet for added comfort.

4. Will ceiling height affect the platform height? As a rule of thumb, you dont want to have less than 6-8 (80 inches) of headroom.

5. Will there be enough space around the chairs to accommodate traffic patterns? Will there be any sconces or door swings protruding into the room? Sometimes it may be enough to change the swing of a door to achieve proper traffic flow within the theater.

6. Will you need to provide electricity to the platform for motorized chairs or step lighting? What about cabling for transducers (also called bass shakers)? This issue is especially important with centrally located free-floating platforms.

7. Last but not least, will you be able to comfortably view the screen from every seat in the house? This issue brings up the idea of sightlines. A sightline (attached) is created from the center of the viewers eye to the corners of the movie screen.

Assuming that you have been successful in your search for the ideal theater seat and that you know how many seats you will have, the next step will be to determine the dimensions of your platform. Most chair manufacturers will provide you with minimum space requirements for their chairs but keep in mind that these dimensions may vary once you assemble the chairs at home. Always allow a couple of extra inches when figuring out the total chair width. The depth of your platform may vary from six to eight feet, depending on your chairs space requirements. Try a simple experiment with your recliners. Have somebody (preferably tall) site in the chair and measure it in an open position, taking into account that the persons feet will probably overhang on the foot rest. Take note of your dimensions and keep in mind that you may want to be able to pass in between somebodys feet and the chair in front.

Many reclining and rocking models require a minimum wall clearance (a tall platform may act the same way as a wall in restricting chair motion). For a better listening experience, its best not to place the back row all the way against the wall. Room dimensions permitting, a centrally located platform is an ideal solution. It deals well with room constraints (such as door location) and it places the chairs in a good listening position. Room constraints may dictate a wall-to-wall seating platform with the chairs against the back wall. We could, of course make the platform deeper and offset the chairs from the wall but that will push the front row too close to the screen. The question, What is too close? comes to mind. One rule of thumb is that the distance from the front row to the screen should be no less than one and a half times the screen width.

Sightlines and ceiling height play the biggest role in determining your platform height. Ceiling height is a relatively straightforward calculation. Subtract the ceiling height from your platform height and you should come up with a minimum of 6-8 (although 6-6 is acceptable). Sightlines are a little more complicated. They should be drawn in scale on graph paper or, better yet, in a CAD (computer aided design) computer program. I have attached a sightline study created in a CAD program. Typically, you should place the center of the screen as close to eye height as possible. That may be difficult to accomplish with over-sized screens and with the need to place the center channel below the screen. Having to look up at picture for two hours is guaranteed to give you a serious pain in the neck. At the very least, it is a good idea to keep the bottom of the screen below eye level.

Unfortunately, every design is a form of compromise between ideal, theoretical solutions and real-life conditions. The secret is not to allow your project to wander into either extreme and dont panic when things dont turn out exactly as you imagined they would. You will still end up with a great home theater!
LL

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