Monday, June 22, 2009

A night at the movies ... at home

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 06/20/2009 12:12 PM | Lifestyle
Going to the movies is one of the most popular forms of entertainment around, whether for families, dating couples or young professionals seeking escape from workplace stress.
But the cinema has its limitations - the hassle getting there, the rigid schedules, the limited choice. And now, with technological leaps for home entertainment units, it also has a serious competitor: The living room.
Sandy, who runs and owns a shop in Mangga Dua Mall in Central Jakarta, has embraced the growing trend for Jakartans to dedicate a room in their house to movie watching.
About 18 months ago, the 29-year-old single guy had a home cinema installed in his apartment.
"I don't have to queue for a ticket, look for a parking spot, and I can watch my favorite movie any time I want," Sandy says.
Sandy and his friends can sit back and relax in their choice of four big seats and watch movies projected by a Blu-ray player onto a 101-inch screen.
"I know that a home theater can never really replace a real theater but at least a home theater set gives you a kind of ease. It's much better for me than going to the movies," says Sandy, who splashed out with more than Rp 50 million (US$4,800) on equipment for the room.
While not all movie lovers are taking their recreation to the same extreme, retailers and analysts agree that the home entertainment market is booming. Hollywood-style screening rooms are becoming increasingly common.
According to Electronic Marketer Club (EMC), which tracks retail electronics sales, the number of home theater packages sold in Indonesia rose from about 31,379 units in 2006 to 84,405 units in 2008; already by April this year 29,716 units had been sold.
"People want to bring the sight and sound of movie theaters to their home," says EMC chairman Iffan Suryanto.
Although there are a variety of home cinema theater systems designed to please the most demanding viewers offering many extra digital devices, the basic home theater components will include video displays, a digital surround sound system and DVD player or video source.
In the past, a home system was well out of reach for the ordinary family on a tight budget. While prices for top-of-the-range systems might still have some jaws dropping, new products coming out all the time mean movie lovers can now find something to suit their taste and budget.
In general, there are two kinds of home theater system: a high-quality home theater and home theater in a box (HTiB).
High-quality home cinemas are assembled from components purchased separately to provide the best combination of equipment for the price. An HTiB is a basic all-in-one unit that includes a DVD player, audio amplifier and surround sound speakers with a powered subwoofer to pick up the bass.
"Those who really want to bring the feel of the theater into their home usually choose their components separately and have them fitted together," says deputy editor of Audio Video magazine Budi Santoso. "This brings out more detail in terms of sound and visuals."
Those who find the task of putting together a home theater system from separate components too arduous can get HTiB - a whole package at once - and be confident that it works.
Packages include an audio/video receiver along with enough speakers so viewers can properly enjoy the surround sound that is part of most DVD and HDTV broadcasts. A home theater system can also include a DVD player, either integrated with the AV receiver or as a separate component. A few also include high-definition Blu-ray players.
Basic HTiB units are available for anywhere from Rp 1 to 3 million, and the more elaborate the system the higher the price tag. A high-quality HTiB can cost more than Rp 10 million.
Sales of HTiB units have boomed over the past four years, according to Iffan Suryanto, who is also general manager of PT. Sharp Electronic Indonesia. "The most wanted segments are the units in the price range of one to one and a half million rupiah," he said.
High-end packages - which are made up of at least a 5.1 speaker, AV receiver and DVD player or Blu-ray player - started about Rp 50 million.
As it is important for the dedicated room to be of a decent size and soundproof, some customers choose to hire an acoustic designer to ensure they get the ultimate home entertainment experience, Budi says.
According to estimates by researcher Dini Wirastri, the average Indonesian family spends nearly Rp 3 million on a television, DVD player and sound system.
But there are plenty of big spenders around too, buying front, center and surround speakers with prices heading toward the Rp 80 million mark, or rear projectors that range from Rp 8 million to Rp 40 million, or large plasma televisions, which can sell for more than Rp 15 million.
"High-end shoppers prefer LCD to plasma screen TVs," says Wirastri, adding that Blu-ray players, which are currently all the rage, can be bought for Rp 12 million.
Wirastri said the demand for home cinemas was "going crazy" and fit-outs worth Rp 1 to 2 billion were not uncommon.
Mee Kim, a company director from Pondok Indah, South Jakarta, had a Rp 500 million home theater built into her home three years ago.
"You have a limited choice of movies with the movie theaters here in Jakarta," she says. "With a home theater I can watch my favorite movie anytime, invite our close friends, or even my colleagues at my company to have karaoke."
Doharto Simatupang, a multimedia observer, says he believes the move toward home theater systems reflects a wider social trend of people wanting to spend more time in the comfort of their homes.
"People aren't running away from the outside world, but they're saying home is the nicest place to be," he said.
Some might view purchasing a home theater system as an extravagance, but others would argue that with all their hard work, they deserve something that will enhance their home and the time spent in it - especially those who love the movies.
"It's really a kind of hobby," says Sandy. "If it isn't a hobby, people won't spend millions or even billions just to get the movie theater experience at home."

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