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How to Create a Better Movie Night in Your Living Room

Most of us will watch movies at home for the foreseeable future, regardless of when audiences return to theaters en masse. With the living room as our cinema, we consulted experts in party planning, technology and food for ways to make sure that movie night isn’t just another night on the couch.

Dim the lights
Wifi-connected lightbulbs make this possible without needing new fixtures or dimmer switches.  Matt Silberstein, an audio/video consultant based in the Pacific Northwest, suggests the Wyze Bulb ($30 for four), which lets you control your lights via an app or, if your fingers are covered in butter, Alexa or Google Assistant.

Start with a better picture
Mr. Silberstein says you don’t always have to buy a new TV to get a better picture. That is because your TV is probably still operating under the settings it had when you took it out of the box.  TVs typically come with pre-settings meant to catch your eye when competing against a wall of product competitors, he says. But those usually aren’t best for watching a movie.  “The colors tend to be pushed all the way to maximum, brightness and contrast are pushed to maximum,” he says, “so you get a TV that’s overly bright, [with] washed-out colors, washed-out dark areas.”  To find out the ideal settings for your TV, he suggests consulting the settings for your specific model.

If you want to take the movie outside, Mr. Silberstein, recommends projectors such as the Epson Home Cinema 2150 3LCD projector. Outdoor screens can be purchased from places like Hammacher Schlemmer, he says.

Boost your sound
The simplest way to improve your sound quality is to get a sound bar, Mr. Silberstein says. They are easy to use and install, and there are many high-quality options, he says, one being the Sonos Beam, which costs $399.  To take things a step further, he says, get a subwoofer, which will give you some oomph. “And the oomph is what a lot of people like,” he says.

Make Adventurous Popcorn

Molly Stevens, author of the James Beard-nominated cookbook, “All About Dinner: Simple Meals, Expert Advice,” says microwave and air-popped popcorn can’t compete with kernels popped in hot oil on the stove top.  “You need that oil in the pan because not only is that cooking the popcorn, but it’s adding flavor to the whole thing,” she says.

Choose a sturdy pot with a tight lid; a 3- to 4- quart pot for 6 to 8 cups popcorn.

Choose a fat, such as extra-virgin olive, coconut, avocado, sunflower, peanut and grapeseed oils. Add 1 tablespoon for a really small batch, and 2 to 4 tablespoons for anything larger.

Measure out popcorn. For snacking, measure out 1/4 cup of kernels for 6 to 8 cups of popcorn.
Test kernels. Combine fat and 2 or 3 popcorn kernels in the pot over medium to medium-high heat. Cover until you hear a pop. This tells you the oil is hot enough.  Quickly dump in the remaining corn and cover. Using potholders, grab the pot by both handles and give it a good shake so the kernels are evenly distributed. Once you hear steady popping, shake the pot frequently. If there is any whiff of scorching, nudge down the heat.

Once the popping stops give the pot another shake and remove from the heat. Lift the lid away from you, and dump the popcorn into a bowl.  Serve plain or top with fine salt, grated cheese, black pepper and/or melted butter (or other seasonings). Fun options for seasoning popcorn include toasted coconut, crushed red pepper flakes and chili powder.

Ms. Stevens prefers using coconut oil in a soup pot that’s light enough to shake and has plenty of space for kernels to pop. She likes to season with salt, black pepper and Parmesan cheese. If you’re going to add butter—and you might not need to because you’ve cooked your kernels in oil—she says you might try infusing it with flavors like garlic or curry spices.

Mindy Weiss, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based event planner, says she and her family have been setting up a popcorn bar with toppings from around the house: powdered sugar, cheddar cheese, Sriracha, bacon bits, chocolate chips, even raw cookie dough.  “It was fun,” she says, “and it kind of added a dimension to our movie watching.”

By Chris Kornelis – Wall Street Journal
June 17, 2020 3:44 pm ET