Less than a week ago I began a search for theater seating to replace the sectional sofa in my dedicated media room. Although the sofa is relatively new and it looks great, the only way I could lay down directly in front of my large plasma TV was to prop my feet on my coffee table. Even with a pillow under my feet, I was never comfortable. My backup position is the chaise lounge on the end of the sofa, but with that position I am never sitting in the sweet spot. That has always bothered me and so I thought that my best plan would be to replace the sectional with a sofa with chaise lounges in the middle—kind of like a huge bed/couch. After a mostly fruitless search for the right piece of furniture, I submitted some drawings to a local custom furniture manufacturer. I had just sent those off when girlfriend pointed out that my clients (who I sometimes meet in my media room) might feel uncomfortable sitting on the edge of a bed-like piece of furniture. I agreed and realized that my only other option was theater seating.
Prior to this search, I had only seen cheap models in a few friends’ homes (I never sat in them) and the uber comfortable seats at iPic theaters (formerly called Gold Class Cinemas). The iPic seats are incredibly comfortable and roomy (albeit kind of ugly when you think about it). With that in mind, I started a thread here on the AVS Forum asking if anyone knew who made those chairs (http://www.avsforum.com/t/1434622/closest-thing-to-ipic-theater-seats/
). Almost immediately Ken from Stargate Cinema was kind enough to respond to my query with a PM. He sent me some helpful information about the iPic manufacturer and said he’d follow up with more information about other chairs I might like if I could share some of my requirements. That was a super smart sales move on his part as it immediately engaged me and he was the immediate front runner for my business. However, with his question about what I wanted, I realized that I needed to do some serious research to figure out how to answer his question. And so I spent 10-12 hours over the next two days reading countless posts about home theater chairs and browsing through manufacturer and reseller web sites. In the end, I decided that I wanted something on the higher end that looked modern and clean without any “poofiness.” Ken later informed me that kind of style is referred to as "Bubba” in the industry.
As I was waiting for Ken to get back to me, I started crawling the major online retailers of theater seating. The main retailers I looked at were theaterseatstore.com, stargatecinema.com (because of Ken’s initial PM), 4seating.com, and a few others. I felt that Theater Seat Store had the best web site and thus I spent most of my browsing time there. And so, when I hadn’t heard back from Ken and I wanted to start asking some direct questions, I decided to give Theater Seat Store a call. I spoke to Tom and he was super helpful. He promised to send me fabric swatches the next day in the brown colors that I was interested in purchasing and sure enough I got a delivery notice via e-mail right away. But as soon as I hung up with Tom, I began worrying. I faced a problem. The chair styles that I liked best were Bass/Jaymar and thus they were more expensive than many other models. I became quite apprehensive about spending many thousands of dollars on furniture without any idea as to how comfortable the theater seats would be in real life. Even with the many comments here on the forum about several manufacturers and models, I knew that I needed to sit in something so I could at least have a baseline and vocabulary to compare to other models that were only available online.
It was then that I realized that 4seating.com had a huge showroom only 15 minutes from my Los Angeles area office. I wasn’t a big fan of the 4seating.com web site and thus I wasn’t very confident in how much value I’d get from visiting their showroom, but I knew I had to at least try something out so I could sit in a few models and perhaps get a better idea of what questions I should be asking before I purchased at theaterseatstore.com.
When I arrived at 4seating.com, they had to buzz me in the door (which felt kind of weird) and I wandered my way upstairs to the showroom. It was a very large, bright, and clean showroom. It was a little bit stark though and the location felt like industrial office space rather than a typical furniture showroom. I was met by Dario who asked me what kind of chair I wanted to see. When I told him Jaymar, he led me over to the one Jaymar floor model they had in stock. It wasn’t the model I was interested in, but I sat in it anyway. It felt too soft and since it wasn’t the model I wanted, I started looking at the 6 or 7 Palliser models they had on the floor. The first thing I saw was that the Palliser models looked much better in person than they did in the online photos. And although Palliser wasn’t on my short list, they immediately became contenders.
There were two models on the floor that were similar to the Jaymars I preferred (Palliser Digital was one of them). However, after sitting in the Digital (and another model whose name I now forget), I found both of the seats quite stiff and hard and not to my liking. It was at this point that I realized that I had made the right decision in checking out the showroom. I realized that no matter how cool a theater seat might look, if it wasn’t going to be comfortable to me I was just wasting money. My next test stop was a Palliser Blade. I like the style quite a bit and it was much more comfortable to me than the Digital. It was so cool in fact that I asked about buying the floor model (I hate to wait). However, the lack of a tray table really bothered me so I gave up on that idea and Dario led me over to a single Palliser Playback tucked back in a corner. It felt as comfortable as the Blade and although it was a bit more “Bubba” than the digital, I felt I could live with it. He told me it was also the least expensive chair in the Palliser line so that was even better for my pocketbook.
I knew I needed to check measurements in my media room before deciding on a configuration and pulling the trigger so I left the showroom promising to call the next day with my order. Now you might be thinking, “Woah, I thought he was going to order from Theater Seat Store or even Stargate Cinema.” But to be honest, Dario really won me over. He spent almost 2 hours with me in that showroom looking at chairs and running prices on different options. He even came up with a creative solution to meet my needs for a TV tray sized tray table. Also, 4 Seating handles all of their own deliveries, and, since I’m local, that means free white glove service into my home. My out the door price was also very nice. So, although I really appreciated Ken’s and Tom’s help and advice, Dario had spent the most time with me and had introduced me to my final pick. I also felt better about being able to drive down the road to their store if I ever needed help with anything.
But the story doesn’t end here.
As I thought back over my experiences at the 4seating.com showroom and ideas percolated, I realized that I couldn’t remember several small details about the Palliser Playback and I began to question my decision. And so I decided to return the next day to make sure that the Playback met all of my requirements. When I arrived Dario was tied up on the phone. And so I made my way over to the Playback on my own and started testing out features and answering my own questions. Then I decided to check out the comfort once again. So I sat in the Playback and then went to sit immediately in the Blade. And then back to the Playback. And then back to the Blade. I then realized that I liked the Blade better and felt it was more comfortable than the Playback. That got me to thinking that perhaps I wasn’t paying enough attention to comfort the day before. Perhaps I was too wound up after first being exposed to the chairs to give all of my options a good look. And so I decided to give some of the other chairs a new look. And that’s when I sat in the Palliser Media. I had ignored the Media the day before because it was much more Bubba than what I had originally been considering. I think I also ignored it because the floor model was wrapped in a cream leather that I absolutely abhor. That being said, when I sat in the Media, I realized it was far more comfortable (to me) than the Playback or Blade. And with that came the realization that although the Media might not be ideal in terms of style, comfort was more important in the long run. And the Bubba factor wasn’t horrible and perhaps it wouldn’t be so apparent in a dark leather. In addition to the comfort factor, the Media has a 25” seat which I liked more than the 24” width seats (that actually measure 23” at the end). And that extra wide feeling reminded me of the iPic seats. Finally, I felt that back of the chairs looked a bit better than the “flap” on the back of the Playback and Blade.
And so today I placed my order for a curved row of 4 Palliser Media with power recline, grade 3000 Java top grain leather with bonded match, espresso foot finish, bronze cup holders, and tray tables. I also ordered the Tablet Holder. My delivery estimate is 8-10 weeks. I’ll let everyone know what happens next. Look for my updates here …
P.S. I wrote this (long) short story hoping to provide readers a detailed picture of my search and thought processes. I think it might even provide theater seat vendors some insight into their customers and our behaviors. I’m also writing it because I think 4seating.com / 4seating has a mixed reputation on the forum. Therefore, by fully documenting my experiences, from beginning to end, you (the reader) can perhaps make some well-informed judgments about this company which may assist in guiding your future purchase decisions.