O utdoor movie screenings used to be a big deal from the 1930s to the 1970s. Drive-in movie theaters were where you would find the local youth for their source of fun, and while these aren’t as popular anymore, the fundamental idea still appeals to almost all people. The COVID-19 concerns also hit the world of movie screenings hard since people aren’t as inclined to spend time around strangers anymore because of health concerns.
Nowadays, it’s more accessible to host a movie night in your own back garden with friends and family, so more people take this route instead. There are a few things that you require to put together a movie theater beneath the stars, but regardless of your budget, it’s doable. If you want to plan the ultimate outdoor movie night, we have prepared this article where we list all that is necessary for your endeavor to end up perfect. There’s more to it than a screen and a projector, at least if you want to make it memorable and have people insist on repeating the experience. Without further ago, here’s what you need.
There are only two essential items for movie night – the screen and the projector. The latter is the first item we will cover because of its technical nature. To find the right portable projector for the job, you have to consider the size of the backyard and the extent of surrounding light. Thus, you have to get familiarized with two terms before you dive in and buy a projector – lumens (refer to brightness) and throw-distance (refers to the space between the seating area and the screen).
After you make sure that the lumens suffice for how dark it gets and that the throw distance is appropriate for the setup you have in mind, you must also consider the following when picking the projector:
You have buyable and DIY options when it comes to screen surfaces, which is a plus for those who want to save money. To keep costs as low as possible, you can project the movie onto an exterior wall of the house. Get a little creative and hang white sheets from trees or over the fence, it’s a viable option. While this setup is decent, it doesn’t come close to the pro route.
Instead of improvising, buy an outdoor movie screen that flaunts a flat surface on which the images will be projected perfectly. You can pick from PVC or canvas for the screen, and rip-stop nylon, vinyl, aluminum, or stainless steel for the frame, to name a few options. Whether you go for an inflatable model or a portable metal screen, it won’t make a big difference price-wise. Speaking of, we must mention that high-end outdoor movie screens don’t cost much. A 15.5’ diagonal model can cost $200, while a 6.2’ diagonal model can be as cheap as $60.
This is the easiest part of the setup, by far. Just use extension cords to run power from outdoor outlets or from inside the house in case you don’t have the former. My advice to you is that you plus a surge protector power strip into the extension cord to make sure that the projector and any other device you plug in are protected if power outages occur. This small safety step can go a long way, so don’t overlook it.
Since it’s movie NIGHT, emphasis on the time of day when it takes place, it’s going to be dark out. To make the atmosphere as pleasant as possible and not roam around and hit yourselves by accident when you’re getting up for bathroom breaks, you need dim lighting to illuminate the backyard a bit. I recommend dim lights because of the more serene atmosphere these create. There’s the fact that the soft lighting won’t ruin the viewing experience but rather let you all enjoy the flick that the projector plays to the fullest.
You likely have a few trees in your backyard. Hang shatterproof globe lights or any other type of lighting you prefer in them. What’s important is that you use the natural décor of the backyard for this step to make a warm and cozy ambiance that will make the whole experience more appealing and inviting for those involved.
A movie has to be pretty loud for you to hear it when you’re inside the house where there are virtually no distractions. Outside, noises can abound, even at night. Crickets, birds, and even cars passing down the road can ruin the experience if you don’t have a quality sound system since you won’t be able to hear the dialogue and accompanying sound effects. People will likely start munching on snacks too, another noise that you likely want to drown so that everyone can enjoy the movie.
I recommend that you get at least two speakers so that you can put one on each side. This way, you equalize the sound and create a surround sound effect. To avoid tripping on wires, which is a big inconvenience and quite possible since the lighting is dim, I advise you to get wireless outdoor speakers that connect to the projector via Bluetooth.
The minimum runtime of most movies is 90 minutes. With other flicks, whether we’re talking about the popular superhero movies that have taken the world by storm in the past years, psychological movies, dramas, war-themed movies, and more, the runtime can exceed 2 hours, some even getting close to 3 hours of runtime. So there’s no need to underline why comfy seating is crucial during movie night. If you want to make sure everyone who participates is happy with the experience, have options available for those who want to sit, as well as those who want to lay. Use the following in combination with each other and you’re sure to please everyone:
What’s the first word that pops into mind when you think about watching a movie? Likely, it’s popcorn. Aside from the classic movie snack that you can prepare in a jiffy with a popcorn maker, there is a range of other delicious treats that we all like to munch on during this activity. You have to organize a station for snacks, treats, and drinks where you provide something for everyone’s taste.
Some nachos, chocolates, even biscuits, all the treats that you and your friends enjoy are more than welcome at this station that will likely be visited multiple times by everyone. If the weather is considerably hot even in the evening or at night, then you should take out the snow cone machine to cool down with the delicious icy treats it makes.
Of course, as aforementioned, this station has to contain beverages too. If you want to make everyone happy, make sure that you stock up on sparkling soda, natural soda, water, and even cold beers. My advice – store all bottles in an electric cooler to keep them at the perfect temperature throughout the entire runtime of the movie.
If you made it here with the checklist, you are basically already done with the setup. All that’s left now is to pick the movie. If you’re going solo on movie night, the world is your oyster. You can pick anything you like. When you’re watching with others, things change. It can be quite tricky to pick something that everyone likes.
I throw outdoor movie nights with friends and family often, so I say this from experience – decide what movie you will all watch at least a few hours before gathering. Otherwise, you will waste a lot of time arguing with each other over the genre and specific film that you should play for the night. A group chat on any social media platform you usually use works when you have friends over for the night, you can discuss the details there. With household members it’s easier, you can have the talk face to face at the time of your convenience. Just make sure that everyone is satisfied with the final pick so that there are no complaints when the night is over.
While there are a few items that you need to host the perfect outdoor movie night, it’s not an expensive investment. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, there are a few ways that you can cut costs yet still create perfect conditions, like improvising the movie screen or using the blankets you already have for sitting. Whatever route you take, what’s important is that you cross off the list as many of the aforementioned items as possible to make sure everyone is comfy and that the viewing experience is unforgettable so that you repeat it time and time again with friends and family.
TLDR – A quick rundown of what an outdoor movie night entails:
To wrap it all up, I recommend that you try to give every movie night a new twist. Spice things up, maybe even get some thematic décor once in a while if you want to make it memorable. What’s important is that you and your guests have a good time and enjoy a night of relaxation together, eating popcorn while watching the best that cinema has to offer right in your backyard.