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Home theater gear is a booming business

This is an article written by Jayne O’Donnell, USA Today

Home theater gear is a booming business

By Jayne O’Donnell, USA TODAY

Stores are selling more big-screen TVs and projectors for movies and games, creating a boom in sales of home theater furniture, a surprising bright spot for the hard-hit furniture business.

Revenue from sales of projectors for movies and games is expected to increase from $406 million last year to $421 million in 2011, says the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Berkline, which makes home theater recliners, saw double-digit growth last year after 15 years of making the $600-$1,100 chairs.

And home theater-related retailers are bracing for a post-holiday, pre-Super Bowl bump. The Super Bowl is the “top driver” of HDTV sales, and sales of home theater-related furniture go “hand in hand,” CEA spokeswoman Megan Pollock says.

CEO Rob Burch says Berkline often sees a sales increase this month. He attributes that in part to the Super Bowl and those updating furniture in the rooms that will house new TVs, projectors and gaming equipment that they received for the holidays.

La-Z-Boy, which doesn’t break out sales by product, says the home theater trend has led to demand for sectional sofas with chaise lounge seating, power recline functions and cup holders.

Where it started

The trend’s roots extend to 2009, when the TV market did “shockingly well,” thanks in part to great holiday deals, says CEA chief economist Shawn DuBravac. As with TVs, the prices of projectors are dropping, down from an average of $1,401 in 2009 to $972 last year, CEA says.

The global market for home theater technologies and services is expected to grow from $1.9 billion in 2006 to $2.9 billion in 2013, a compound annual growth rate of 6.9%, according to, an industry research company.

Home theater products include sound systems, display systems, players, media storage devices and theater-in-a-box systems, which are seeing the fastest sales increases, says a Global Industry Analysts study.

Some of the uptick in home theater furniture is a response to all the upgraded TVs people bought in 2009. Now they want better furniture for watching. DuBravac says it’s also due to the increase in empty nesters with room to spare and doting parents who want to keep their teenagers at home. “If you have the best hangout, then you’re the house everyone will want to go to,” he says.

Some also say it’s a response to high movie ticket and concession prices. Last year was the worst year for movie ticket sales since 1996, says a new study by

Cathleen McCloskey of Blauvelt, N.Y., is considering upgrading from a 42-inch television to a 60-inch one “to be able to enjoy football and baseball and movies in more of a theater-like setting.” She says she hates going to the movies anymore. “The people are rude, talking and munching during the movie, the parking is crazy and the snacks are expensive and not healthy,” says McCloskey, 46.

Burch says the argument for more theater-like chairs includes optional trays for popcorn and candy, lighted cup holders and technology that vibrates your seat so that you “feel” gunshots or thunder from the movie.

Going all out

Jeff Berens of Royal Oak, Mich., says he priced sectional sofas and found he could get six Berkline seats for about the same price. Besides, he says, “A bunch of adults sitting elbow to elbow on a couch is not the most comfortable thing.” The home audio and video engineer also built a lighted “riser” to elevate the second row of seats so everyone can see the screen in his new home theater.

Anne Morrissy, 31, of Chicago used to think home theaters were a “completely frivolous indulgence that the very wealthy put in their homes to show off just how wealthy they are.” But that changed after she went to see This Is It at the movie theater three times last winter because she liked the feeling of “standing on stage” with Michael Jackson.

“I have since become a little obsessed with, if not actually having a home theater of my own, at least dating someone who does,” Morrissy says.