I'm by no means an expert and am in fact a total n00b at this.
Like you I'm doing a ton of research and am trying the seats out in person when I can, but I've never bought theater seats before and don't have any first-hand experience with any of the brands we're talking about.
I don't have experience with bonded leather seats, either, but I have some limited experience with leather seats via family members and they've lasted for well over a decade. The leather is still quite soft despite some color fading, but they still feel really good which is what I think counts most (and no rips or tears). Of course there are many grades of leather, so that needs to be accounted for. Palliser offers five grades of leather with the first two available as Leather Match (I'm considering the 2000 series in Leather Match). Personally, I prefer matte leather and am not into shiny leather seats at all, just personal taste.
I'm really not sure how bonded would hold up, but I'm not really into the idea of vinyl seats.
Leather Match is a potential compromise as it is real leather on the parts of the seat that you sit on and actually touch while the rest of the parts (back, sides, etc.) are matching bonded leather. I'm thinking of doing this, actually, but want to research a bit more as well.
Palliser has a basic leather guide here which is a good place to start ... http://www.palliser.com/furniture/CoverOptions/Leather/About/
One of Palliser's dealers, Discount Leather Chairs, has a section on each seat's page about the different fabrics that are offered which has good explanations of the different grades of leather (and pricing). Check this page out, for example, and scroll down a bit until you see the leather grade tabs... http://www.discountleatherchair.com/palliser-media-home-theater-seats.html
I feel ya on the price issue. These seats get crazy pricey with all the add-ons! Personally, I don't think I could do without power recline since its infinitely adjustable and just way easier to use. If I were to cut corners in any area I think for me it would be the lighting as that is the one add-on feature that is really luxury without a whole lot of practicality, or at least less practicality than motorized recline and real leather, IMHO.