By Katy Tomasulo. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, manufacturers will sell 3 million home theater system and component packages this year, with a total worth of about $1.1 billion. That's up from 979,000 system and component packages, worth about $282 million, sold in 1997. In other words, home theater is hot.

The category of "home theater" is broad, and the end product depends mostly on the budget of the individual homeowner. Consumers can pick up a "home theater in a box" at their electronics store for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. At the other end of the spectrum, custom home theaters can be speced with the works -- large projection screens, acoustical panels, and rows of theater-style seats.

The growth in consumer interest in home entertainment is driven largely by rapidly improving audio and visual technologies. DVD players, for example, are predicted to surpass VCRs in sales this year, thanks to better picture quality and sound. And as consumers get improved quality out of their DVDs, they are opting to upgrade to better televisions and speaker systems.

The use of high-definition televisions (HDTV) also is growing rapidly, and more networks are broadcasting shows in the medium. According to electronics outfit Circuit City, HDTV units offer 10-times-sharper pictures, a wider screen for improved movie viewing, and digital audio for crisper sound. Meanwhile, flat-panel plasma screen televisions, the new staple in high-end homes, offer fantastic picture quality in a thin format, making them a great choice for retrofit applications. "It's flat, it's thin, it takes up very little to no footprint," says David Bales, marketing manager for Pioneer Elite Audio. "It's light. You can hang it on the wall. And the picture quality is unbelievable."

On top of electronic components, homeowners have a growing number of choices for pre-packaged and custom room designs, with a variety of components, seating, and options to match virtually any decor and budget. And a number of accessories, from posters to lights to popcorn machines, can make any home theater feel more like the real thing.

With theater-quality sound and visuals, combined with cinematic aesthetics, the home theater market is expected to continue its explosive growth. No matter the style or size, a home box office may fit perfectly into your next project.

Photo: Courtesy DeCorp

DeCorp. A departure from traditional wiring systems, FlatWire Ready speaker wiring is only 8/1,000 inch thick, less than the thickness of a business card, and can be mounted directly onto walls, ceilings, and other surfaces to discreetly connect electronic equipment throughout the home. The wiring is opaque, so it can stand alone or be painted and wallpapered over. (866) 412-9901.

Photo: Courtesy Bass Industries

Bass Industries. One of many home cinema seats available from the company, the Celebrity Lounger includes the industry's only front-mounted beverage holders that remain hidden when not in use. The units fully recline and feature three viewing positions and a full-size leg and footrest.

Photo: Courtesy Booth Seating

Booth Seating. New and refurbished genuine commercial movie theater chairs are available in any configuration for home theatre use. The Concorde Rocker, shown here, comes in three styles with lumbar support; two include head support. The chairs come in several widths and back heights and feature flip-up cupholder armrests. (901) 948-6515.

Photo: Courtesy Pioneer

Pioneer. The Pro800HD 43-inch plasma display is high-definition compatible and has four screen modes to accommodate various formats, including zoom and wide. The unit weighs less than 85 pounds and has a viewable angle of more than 160 degrees.

Photo: Courtesy Bose

Bose. Built-Invisible Series II home theater systems are designed to be flexible, easy to install, and discreet and hidden from view while still offering superb, crisp sound. The system includes a powerful amplifier with Dolby 5.1 decoding and Bose Videostage 5 decoding and mix-and-match speaker options. The system allows for integration with an array of video displays and source components. (800) 999-2673.

Photo: Courtesy Theo Kalomirakis Theaters

Theo Kalomirakis Theaters. Inspired by the Art Deco movement of the 1930s, the Savoy home theater features bronzed pilasters, grilles, ornaments, and frieze medallions set on upholstered wall panels. Seating is available in blue, green, burgundy, and tan. (877) 858-4328.

Photo: Courtesy RCA

RCA. The Scenium DVD/CD Home Theatre System offers powerful sound in a compact, slim design, the maker says. The RTD receiver combines the features of a DVD and CD player, stereo tuner, amplifier, and Dolby Digital decoder into one package. The unit features a touch sensor, a 4x slow motion speed for the DVD player, a three-language on-screen display, and will support CDs, CD-R/RWs, and mp3 CDs.

Photo: Courtesy Owens Corning

Owens Corning. The Visionaire FX personal entertainment center package includes audio/video equipment, lighting, controls, acoustical materials, chairs, architectural elements, and installation. The theaters can be used in new and retrofit applications because they're designed to fit in several room sizes and offer a variety of options. (800) 438-7465.