Ultimate DIY Home Theater with 120” screen – less than $2,000!

Just like going out to the movies - without the overpriced snacks!

Just like going out to the movies – without the overpriced snacks!

When it came time to add a home theater room, our first consideration was the screen size. We were converting an unused bedroom, which we were basically using just for storage. The 12’ x 15′ room is not very large for a home theater, but we didn’t want to put it in the basement, as the ceilings were pretty short. Hubby, of course, being a guy, wanted as big a TV as possible! Our current TV room has a 58” Panasonic plasma TV, so we considered going to a 65” or 70”.  Then we started checking out front projectors. I must say, the technology has come a long way – modern projectors have amazing picture quality when used with a good screen!

We ended up with the Benq W1080ST projector. This unit has all the features we were looking for: full 1080p resolution, 3D capable, and most important – short throw. That last part is key – what it means is that the projector can be mounted very close to the screen, and for a small room, this is critical. Close mounting also has other benefits – brightness is higher and, if you’re playing video games with Kinect or Wii, there’s less chance of shadows from players blocking the screen.


Projector is ceiling mounted close to the screen


Audio equipment is hidden in a closet.

For our setup, we used a 120” framed screen and mounted the projector on the ceiling, 6’5” from the screen. With the lights dimmed, and a good bluray source, the picture quality is incredible! Compared to our 58” plasma, I can truly say it’s just as good, only 4 times larger!

Here are some tips and observations we picked up while doing this project:

1: Light control is important – Budget projectors work best in rooms that can be dimmed. More expensive projectors can project a brighter picture to compete with ambient light, but then you’re talking $2,500 and up.

2: Look for a projector that can output full 1080p video, as the large screen size can really make the most of the resolution. What about projectors with 4k resolution? Forget about it! Prices for those are in the stratosphere, and if you can afford that, then you probably wouldn’t be reading this post on building a budget home theater!

3: Installation is more complicated than just hanging an LED screen on the wall. You have to carefully measure the mounting distance and screen position, because you want the picture to be a straight as possible. It’s true that the projector does have screen adjustments for zoom and shape, but these should be used just for some final tuning.

4: The 120” screen we picked was kind of a pain to assemble as well, but for the money, it’s really tough to beat the picture quality.

5: For watching movies, the huge screen really makes a difference. In fact, our friend has a 65” Samsung TV with 4K resolution (paid over $2,900 for it) and he says watching movies on our system, especially ones in 3D, is a much more enjoyable and immersive experience – size trumps resolution!

So, when all is said and done, we have our ultimate big screen home theater – for movie nights that are just like going out to the cinema – minus the sticky floors and overpriced food!

Our setup:

1: Benq W1080ST – we paid $910 last year. There is a newer model out now, the W1085ST – current price on Amazon is around $850.

2: Elite Screens SableFrame CineWhite 120” screen – we paid $345 last year – current price on Amazon is around $370 new and $305 used.

3: Pinnacle MB1000 speaker system – Soundbar with Left, Right, Center speakers, 2 surrounds and subwoofer – $350 on Dell (Pinnacles retail for much more, but Dell often has sales on these)

4: Denon AVR-E300 Receiver: $260

Total cost: $1865 (for comparison, we paid over $3,000 for the Panasonic plasma alone, back in 2008)

Also check out how we created the “Indoor Lighted Dry River Bed” for this room: