Ideal Screen Size for Theater? 2.35:1 or 16:9?

For you screen guys out there...

My dimensions are 16x43ft and part of that space is a pool table and full bar.  I will have one row of theater seating about 13-15 feet from the screen.  I am looking to mount and recess (hide) the screen in the rafters.  My question is this, what brand should I use? and what size screen should I get?  The screen will go across the 16 ft span. Projector is undetermined at this point but will be a good one.  The windows in the area can be "blacked out" I am also thinking of doing an acoustically transparent screen.  Thoughts? 

Also, should I do 16:9 or letterbox? I will use it about 75% for TV and sporting events and 25% on movies.


Pretty much all television shows and sporting events are broadcast in 16:9 format, as well as most movies. There are only a small number of movies done in 2.35:1 format, so I would go with 16:9 to support the most media.

If you are able to completely black out your window and make a "dark room", the white screens are the best. The grey/black screens (such as Greyhawk or Firehawk) are for rooms with lots of ambient light. The downside of grey screens are a lower gain and/or have a narrow viewing angle (i.e. people towards the far left or right side of the room will have a drop off in light intensity). Grey screens are 1.1 gain or less and usually require a very hi power (bright) projector for effective light. White screens can have up to 1.5 gain and will have more uniform color balance across the entire screen. Here’s a good reference for screen material types:

As far as brand, Stewart Filmscreen has been said to be the best, but it is also typically the most expensive. I know that many others have had much success with Da-Lite and Draper screens. I use the Studiotek 130 from Stewart Filmscreen (which is very nice).

Draper has their Pearl White CH1900E screen with a 1.9 gain, but it has a very narrow viewing angle, which is fine if you’re sitting in the middle set area (half gain is reached at only 23 degrees off axis). My Studiotek 130 has half gain at 80 degrees off axis.

I don’t use an acoustically transparent (AT) or perforated screen, but I have read that there’s a 5% reduction/degradation in light with these screens (may be too small for you to care). They are good if you have the room behind the screen to place the speakers and want the speaker location perception to be perfect.  Also, they are not good if you have a very close viewing distance (i.e. 8 feet or less distance from the screen).

Ah, if you are intending to have a 16 foot wide screen (to go across your entire wall), be aware that you'll need 9 feet of "viewable" height, which means that you can't really have multiple rows of seating.  If your screen covers the entire 16 foot wall, you will have to use AT/perforated screen to place the speakers behind.

Another point. If you are sitting 15 feet away from the screen, it is recommended that the screen size be about 10 feet wide (a good size would be 120" wide by 67.5" high for a 16:9 screen). This gives you the recommended 36 degree viewing angle for the actual movie screen. See this page:

If you used a full 16 foot wide screen, the recommended viewing distance would be 24-1/2 feet away - referenced as "Recommended THX Viewing Distance (36 degree viewing angle)".

Thank you for the info.  
I have 15.8 feet available to me for width but I think I will go with something smaller.  I was thinking around 11 feet wide plus or minus a foot.  I have had people (in the business) try and talk me into a 100 inch diagonal screen to which I say, I would rather just do a 90 inch TV and forego the cost of screen and projector.  Since I am doing the projector, why wouldn't I go bigger?  
I have the ability to control the light in the room so I don't think it will be too bad with ambient light.  There will be some light from the sides and rear but not too bad.  I think in order to do the larger screen with my speakers (48 inch high) I need to have acoustically trasnparent material or else the screen will go all the way to the ceiling which seems too high.

I think I should probably do the 16:9

Are the grey or black superior to the white in any aspects other than ambient light rejection?  

Also with gains of 1.5+, do you see any bright spots in the center or banding issues of any type? or any hot spots?

Stewart keeps coming up as the brand of choice for serious people looking for a nice screen.  I have looked online at screen innovations and their 7 series motorized looks sweet.  Do you or anyone else on here have experience with any of the other screens not named stewart?

Also- what do you guys use for projectors? And, are you happy with it and its performance and reliability? 

I don't think the grey/black are superior to white in general.  They have more resistance to ambient light.  The grey screens are designed to reflect light that is directed straight at the screen (i.e. straight line from the projector), but do not reflect light coming from the sides (i.e. reflections off the side walls).  So, if you are concerned about ambient light, choose the grey.

In your situation, with some concerns about ambient light, I would go with the Greyhawk from Stewart Filmscreen.  It has a very wide viewing angle (almost as wide as my Studiotek 130), but less gain.  The Stewart Greyhawk is more expensive, but it has 12% more gain than the grey screens from Draper and Da-Lite.  When using grey screens, I would try to squeeze out as much light output as possible.

I use a Sony VW95ES (which, in my opinion, was the last excellent 1080p projector Sony made) that outputs 1000 lumens.  I have a 7-2/3 foot wide screen (92") in a completely dark room and the 1000 lumens is just enough to give good light output once calibration from Lumagen Radiance is completed.  In you room, I would recommend at least 2000 lumens (or as much as you could get) because of the larger screen and lower gain Greyhawk.  A 10-11 foot screen is really huge for a common project, plus the lower gain screen means you really need a lot of lumens!  What's your projector budget?

Auxinput clearly knows his stuff so this is more a question than a recommendation from me, but I was thinking..  I have a 100" screen and 1080p projector that I bought for a project a couple years ago.  While it's OK, the one thing that pops into my head is that it looks like you're doing a dedicated theater room, aren't there specific paints that you could use on your viewing wall that allow for any size and format and thereby essentially "future-proof" the room?

Only raising this question since if I were to set up a dedicated dated HT room for projected video, I would want to research this option thoroughly.  

Aren't there great paint options available these days for larger screen viewing sizes that rival physical screens?

Would love to know.


I remember reading about usage of different paints about 5-6 years ago.  I think it was over on AVSForum.  I never did any experimentation with paints.  You might not have the amount of gain that a specific screen material would have (I don't know).  Also, you would have to make sure you used a perfectly flat surface.  Many residential houses nowadays have textured walls.

One thing to keep in mind is that you really need to have a border or some way to black out the entire area surrounding the screen.  There is much light that would reflect off the front wall, event though the projector is primarily aimed at the screen.

As for projector, I am looking at the sonys, epsons and wolfs.  I am not opposed to using other brands but they are the ones I am most familiar with.  Sony is what I would really like due to the fact that they are 4k but their cost is somewhat out of control.  But the main fact is that I am looking at 2000 lumen+ if I can afford it.  

I have seen some theaters projected on the painted walls.  They don't look that bad.
These are my reservations with white painted walls for projectors.
You are limited to white.  If you want to paint your other walls a different color, the one you project on would have to be white. It would look odd to me.  Also, I'm sure the white paint used would not look good in a room as it would look very sterile like a hospital.  

I did some calculations. My screen is 52" X 92", which equals 33.2 square feet of screen area. In a completely dark room, my 1000 lumens projector is just enough for my 1.3 gain screen after calibration (calibration will actually reduce some light output because projectors typically push the blue to make it brighter).

If you put up a 11 foot wide screen, it’s going to be 68 square feet (11 x 6.1875), which is twice as much area. With the reduced 0.9 gain of the Greyhawk, you will actually need a very bright projector, something towards 3000 lumens. This could limit your choice of projector (as many choices are only 2000 lumens) or push your cost a lot higher.

Reducing the screen down to 9 feet wide (108" x 61-3/4") would reduce the area to 45.5 square feet. Move your seating to about 13-14 feet away. This option would allow you keep the 2000 lumen projectors as options.

I have a 120" screen and a projector with much less output than Aux recommends. A Sony HW40ES with 1700 lumens and screen gain of one.  I use it set to output much less than that and it is more than bright enough. At full brightness it is way too much. My first row of seats is about 12 feet away and the second about 4 feet behind that.

Get a 16:9 screen and make a mask for when you want to watch the wider movies. Make a wooden frame and cover it with a non-reflective cloth like Fidelio Velvet - Black 1000. You can get it on amazon. 

for wide movies I set the projector to stretch the picture vertically so you use all of the pixels, Then it is shrunk back down to the proper height with a high quality anamorphic lens. The picture is fabulous in both 16:9 and wide screen.

Good luck, the journey to get it set up is half the fun

@herman - is your screen 120" diagonal? or 120" wide?  If it's 120" diagonal, the actual width is only 105" (8-3/4 feet).

Also, I specifically stated that mgould would need a much higher lumens if he was going to do a calibration (i.e. grayscale and color cube calibration using Lumagen Radiance -- which is highly recommended anyways).  The calibration will reduce the max amount of light the projector can output.  So, in essence, calibrating a 1000 lumens projector will essentially reduce it to something like 700 lumens (approximation).

In my room, if I don't do a grayscale/color calibration, I can certainly run my Sony 1000 lumens in "low light mode" and the brightness is just fine.  However, when calibrated, I have to use the "high light mode" because there just isn't enough output in low light mode -- the picture is just washed out and there's no "pop" in the color.

Since the standard is to define screens diagonally that's how I stated mine. My projector is calibrated and the output is reduced, but it is still plenty bright. The reviews mention that this projector has higher than average output when calibrated. I have to choose which mode to use based on the content but I have always been able to get plenty of light.

from Projector Central

Light output. The HW40ES, at 1700 lumens maximum, isn't unusually bright by home theater standards. What makes the HW40ES special is how much of its light output is still present after calibration.

Cinema Film 1, a bright and colorful mode that's well-suited to living room use, measures 1421 lumens on our test sample after calibration. 

I saw someone mention paint. I got  Kodak gray card and had the local paint store match it in a flat finish then painted the ceiling. It cuts  down on reflected light and doesn't look too bad either. It would be good to paint the walls too but that is an awful lot of gray in a room used for other things.