News & Opinion

Home Theater Recliners are a Waste of Money

First of all, if you have read this far before hate-posting in the comments below, thank you. I do have a point here. Nearly every picture of a dedicated home theater has long rows of home theater recliners. These seats are usually leather, have cupholders in each arm, and can, of course, recline. They look cool, they remind us that we are in a theater, and they seem like the only seating you should consider for your home theater. But I’m here to tell you that is wrong. Home theater recliners are a waste of money. Here’s why.

Author’s Note: I’ve been in the home theater game for a long time. I’ve owned both home theater recliners and regular couches. While this is clearly just my opinion, it comes from years of experience. You may disagree. You may love your home theater recliners. That’s great. Feel free to let me know why in the comments.

I know we are trying to emulate this…but why?

Home Theater Recliners Are Too Limiting

People associate “home theater” with going to the movies. That’s a natural thing to do. You often begin your home theater journey trying to recreate that cinema experience at home. But when you go to the movies, you are only going to be there for a couple of hours. You don’t live there. And when you live in a place, that furniture often needs to be much more flexible. And home theater recliners are a waste of money because they are anything but flexible.

Limited Sitting Positions

Most home theater recliners allow for one and only one sitting position. You sit on the chair, feet forward, and you recline. This is great. Most of the time, that’s how we all sit. But not all of the time. Sometimes you want to curl up, or sit on one side or the other. Good luck doing that with a home theater recliner. You really don’t have the room to pull your knees up or change your position.

And before you ask, I had a loveseat in the center like this one. Didn’t help.

Can’t Lie Down or Sleep

Speaking of changing positions, good luck trying to sleep in a home theater recliner. Sure, you can for a bit. I’ve done it. But it is only a matter of time before you roll over or adjust your position. And then, BAM! You’ve just slammed your knee or elbow into that recliner arm. In a movie theater, where you spend a couple of hours, this isn’t a problem.

But a home theater is, by definition, in a home. You aren’t just watching the latest Marvel movie (though, until recently, you could). You are binge-watching four seasons of a show. You are watching all three Matrix movies in preparation for the newest release. You spend HOURS in your home theater. Eventually, you are going to want to lie down. Reclining may be comfortable, but it isn’t the same as lying down.

Can’t Snuggle or Share

Have you ever tried to hold the hand of your significant other in a movie theater? It isn’t comfortable. Plus, one of the best parts of watching a horror movie with another person is having them jump into your arms (or you jumping into another’s arms). You can’t do that with home theater recliners.

If there was one thing that convinced me that home theater recliners were a waste of money, it was this. The separation of you from everyone else diminishes the movie-watching experience. That chair arm may help separate you from people you don’t know in a public theater, but this is your home. You want to be with the other people in there.

If you have kids, this gets exponentially worse. Young kids don’t want their own seat. They want to sit with you. When they are small, that probably works out okay. But as they grow, you simply don’t have enough room in a home theater recliner. And for those of you with pets (especially dogs), this is also true.

Cupholders Get Gross

My last complaint is a bit of a nitpick. Those cupholders are built-in. That looks cool and all, but they are exceedingly hard to clean. And don’t think you won’t spill anything in them, because you will. Or someone in your family will. That (usually sticky) liquid will live there until you notice it and by then? It’ll be super gross. Sticky, smelly, moldy…ugh. I hated those cupholders.

This is what you’ll find if you shop for a “home theater couch.” Try lying down on that!

Alternative: Build Your Own Sectional

Complaining about how home theater recliners are a waste of money is one thing, but I should have an alternative. I do! When I retired my last set of home theater recliners, I vowed never to get another. I ended up at a large furniture store. When I looked around the showroom floor, I couldn’t find what I wanted. What did I want? A normal couch that had all seats that reclined. They had a couple of options, but they were expensive and not exactly what I wanted. Even asking the staff didn’t help.

When my wife found a model she really liked, I started flipping through the options. What the staff didn’t realize and probably never considered, is that you can put these sectional couches together in just about any way. Do they have power-recline options for the end seats? They absolutely did. Did they have seats with manual recline with no arms on either side? Yep! Slap those bad boys together and you have a couch that fully reclines.

The salesperson’s reaction? “Well, I guess you could do that…”

Thanks, Chad. I know. I can read.

Will building your own sectional be any cheaper than home theater recliners? No. But you end up with a couch that can be used end to end. There are very limited options of home theater recliners, but TONS of sectional options. You give up all those cupholders, but you gain the ability to lie down, snuggle, and sit however you want. And that is a much better use of your money. At least it was for me.

5 Comments on Home Theater Recliners are a Waste of Money

  1. James Willmott

    I think they have their place. In Europe / UK, where home cinemas tend to be smaller than the US, purpose built home cinema seating is less common than the US, but it is available.

    I have a two seater sofa, each seat has an electric recliner. There’s no middle arm rest and for me that works really well.

    If I was to invest in specialist seating in the future, I wouldn’t want a centre arm rest. Cup holders are of limited value as they are no good for a mug of tea.

  2. Jonathan R.

    Completely disagree with this article. I have 6 Fusion Escape recliners and my family LOVES them. they are extremely comfortable and great to watch movies and TV. I have no interest in lying down to sleep in my home theater and my recliners are so much more comfortable than any couch I have ever owned. to each his own of course but to state ‘Home Theatres are a waste of money’ is crazy Tom, come on.

  3. Forrest

    Here’s my wish list for a perfect TV watching recliner:
    Built in pull-out tray
    Cooling (not heating)
    Vibrating massage
    Lumbar support
    Good head/neck support (adjustable)
    Charging port(s)
    BIG cup holder for BIG mugs (removable for cleaning, of course)
    Shorter seat depth so your back reaches the back of the seat (not being forced to slouch)

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