Let’s assume you’ve decided to build a home theater or a media room, and would like to have several rows of seats to accommodate a large number of people. As you may know, in commercial theaters, each row of seats is typically elevated relative to the row in front of it. This ensures that everyone has a clear, unobstructed view of the screen.
Now, some manufacturers came out with the idea of building a small riser into the chairs elevating them by 8 inches, claiming that this eliminates the necessity of building a riser/platform for the second row of seats. They market these chairs, saying: “This smartly designed back-row feature allows for an unobstructed view of the screen, so that expensive risers are a thing of the past!” They also sell chairs that sit lower, enabling you to put them in front of regular height seats. However, these may work better for children and not adults, and they do not recline, so we’ll leave those for another discussion.
So, do “riserless” chairs work? At first glance, they seem like a surefire deal, saving you money and time it would take to build a riser/platform to elevate the second row of seats. In reality, though, such a setup can work in some cases, but the majority of people will find that 8” elevation is not enough. The optimal riser height for your theater is not a constant you can apply in any case. In fact, the minimum riser height needs to be calculated, and depends on 3 parameters:
- distance between the screen and front row viewer’s eyes
- distance between the screen and second row viewer’s eyes
- distance between the floor and bottom of the screen viewing area
Now, if you have a small TV and the bottom of it is between 3.5 – 4 feet, from the floor, it may work, but in most cases theaters will feature a 100 – 130 inch diagonal screen, with a ceiling height less than 8-9 feet, in which case the 7 inch elevation will not work. With a limited ceiling height and large screen, the bottom of the screen will be quite close to the floor, requiring a higher elevation for the second row of seats, and in many cases you would need to build a riser/platform that would be 10, 12 or in some cases up to 14, 16 inches high. You may also need to add a few inches to that calculated height to account for people sitting in the back row reclining more that people in the front row. Another thing to remember – it is very cumbersome and awkward to climb in and out of chairs that are elevated from the floor by 8 inches.
So, before you pull the trigger on buying riserless chairs, you may want to make sure that these recliners will work in your specific situation, and that the small 8 inch elevation they provide will be sufficient for your theater.