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When I was a kid, movie theatres tended to have the screens fairly high and the seats were all at or near ground level (very gentle slope), meaning we all looked up at the screen. Over time people apparently concluded that this was bad, as stadium seating and higher seating elevations (relative to the screen) have become the norm in the theatres I've been in. Now it's much easier to look straight ahead at the screen.

Why, then, when LCD and plasma TVs give us the ability to mount the screen on a wall instead of putting it on a stand, do so many people mount it at or above eye level while standing? This means that if you sit to watch TV (which most of us do), you're looking up at the screen. I'm talking about people's homes, e.g. above the fireplace in the living room, not restaurants where other considerations might apply (like battles for control or risk of damage from patrons).

Are people being driven by a sense of what's aesthetic on walls (we're used to hanging pictures, mirrors, etc higher)? Is there some user-experience reason that it's better to look up when watching TV? If the latter, why doesn't it apply to movie theatres?

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I asked myself the same question when I saw people mounting their TV on top of fireplace. –  the_lotus Nov 2 '12 at 18:08
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I think couches are partly to blame for this; their backs are inclined slightly, so looking up comes fairly natural with the slightly angled posture. –  Ben Brocka Nov 2 '12 at 19:33
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The answer to this question is the same as the answer to the question "Why do people pick out tacky wallpaper?" –  Rahul Nov 2 '12 at 22:04
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It's so the neighbours can see through the window that you have a REALLY BIG TV. ;-) –  PhillipW Nov 2 '12 at 22:37
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@the_lotus Because when they're done with it, then can just unmount it and drop it into the fireplace :D –  Cole Johnson Apr 4 at 15:51
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8 Answers

A few reasons, off the top of my head:

  1. Lower TVs are easier to bump into.
  2. Higher TVs are easier to use while standing (e.g., turning the TV on without the remote).
  3. Higher TVs leave room for cabinets, which must be at ground level to be usable.
  4. People like leaning back a bit on their couch, which moves their field of vision upwards.
  5. Couches may move your head close to the same height as when standing.
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Re #2: I wonder how many people know how to turn their TVs on/off without the remote. :-) –  Monica Cellio Nov 2 '12 at 18:11
    
number 4 is why I like it. Recliner + TV with no craned neck is amazing. –  VoronoiPotato Nov 7 '12 at 20:25
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having to change the angle of my neck to talk to people in the room and to watch TV is incredibly annoying. I hate high mounted TVs, I just refuse to watch them. –  mikebabcock Nov 8 '12 at 4:38
    
You make many good points. Is it just that flat-panels now allow us to put TVs "where we've always wanted them, but you can't wall-mount a CRT"? Older TVs often sat on stands/cabinets, putting them out of bumping-into range and not precluding under-TV storage. Did we lean back on our couches less then while cursing our inability to put the TV higher? –  Monica Cellio Nov 19 '13 at 22:32
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If it's opposite to the bed, it's really hard to look straight forward while lying on it.

But it could be that they're just following some instructions coming with the TV or they've seen that it's this way at the neighbours', so they do it that way as well.

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I hadn't been thinking of bedrooms, but that's a good point. –  Monica Cellio Nov 2 '12 at 18:10
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In public spaces like restaurants TVs are usually placed out of arm's reach to prevent the conflicts that might otherwise arise.

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Thank you for helping me to refine my question. :-) I meant to ask about homes, not restaurants/bars, and have edited the question. (Another reason to raise them at restaurants would be to reduce the chance that unruly or clumsy patrons will damage them.) –  Monica Cellio Nov 2 '12 at 20:22
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Also, high TVs in restaurants and pubs allow prople to walk without interfering that much with the others view. –  Juan Lanus Nov 2 '12 at 20:55
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The high TV in homes also offers this feature for pass through entertainment rooms. –  VoronoiPotato Nov 7 '12 at 20:24
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At a movie theater, the screen is high up so you can see over other people's heads.

At home, people try to recreate a movie theater.

Are you familiar with the parable of the pot roast and the pan?

(for what it's worth, my TV's centerline is aligned with my eyes when I slouch on the couch. So it's not everyone that does this.)

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Ah, that makes sense! My TV is aligned with my seated eye-level too. –  Monica Cellio Nov 2 '12 at 20:34
    
As is mine. And I've had many people ask why it's so low. I just tell them to sit down and look at it. –  Gidgidonihah Nov 7 '12 at 18:41
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Even at a theatre the center of the screen isn't as high compared to your field of vision as that of a screen mounted above a fireplace. –  mikebabcock Nov 8 '12 at 4:38
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Another consideration ... Some people have small kids around (or have friends with small kids) and they don't want their nice new TV to get trashed.

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Usually people put their TV above the fireplace because that's the wall they want their TV to be at, and they cannot put it in front of the fireplace obviously.

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Where did they put them before TVs were wall-mounted? That is, what's driving the desire to put them over the fireplace now? –  Monica Cellio Nov 9 '12 at 15:18
    
Because now they can. When they couldn't they compromised by putting it in a less perfect spot in the room, or placed it in a different room altogether. –  z-boss Nov 9 '12 at 15:26
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@MonicaCellio. Because older tellies were smaller, and would fit beside the fireplace. These massive screens don't. –  TRiG Nov 26 '12 at 19:38
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It's usually the Fireplace that causes this. Traditionally, the fireplace was the central focus of the room. These days, it's often the TV. Obviously, it's easier to move the TV than it is the fireplace, hence the high mounted TVs in rooms with fireplaces.

Ergonomically, it's poor. Most recommendations for TVs (and computer screens, for that matter) is that the the top-half of the screen be mounted at eye-line. Aesthetically, however, it looks nice in a magazines and real estate listings.

So, this is likely an example of form trumping function.

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I think this is the reason and started in home design magazines as a guess. In the past, you would never see a TV in such magazines so, nowadays, you have to put it somewhere and some apparently were led by the nose. As you said, it's ergonomically the worst place to put a TV. THX web site gives the best directions on TV placement. –  Rob Mar 17 '13 at 12:03
    
It's not just ergonomically bad but also just plain bad for the TV! Heat, temperature cycling, and particulates are the enemies of electronics. –  dodgethesteamroller Jun 28 '13 at 1:11
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The TV isn't the only thing hanging on the wall, and to get the right balance - you hang the TV higher up on the wall. At that time, the TV is off and you see it as a thing among others and want it to be nicely placed.

When you realize you mounted the TV too high up on the wall, since its uncomfortable to look up, it's too late to change. The drilling holes in the wall are already there. If you where to lower the TV you also need to fill the other holes, and paint them over. Takes too long, so we'll do it later.

So you're stuck with a too high mounted TV set

enter image description here

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