Movies are synonymous with summer entertainment. We all have memories of packing into a local theater to see the latest blockbuster with family and friends, and you may have even enjoyed movies on the beach or at a drive-in. If so, you know that a summer breeze only adds to the fun times.
So why not bring this experience home by creating a theater right in your own backyard? All you need are a few items (all of which can be found for under $100), some space, and clear weather, and you’ll be guaranteed to discover how enjoyable open-air movie-watching can be!
You’ve heard that the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location. Well, the same holds true for your backyard movie theater. First decide where you would like your movie screen to be. This will require a fair amount of vertical space—a patio door, fence, garage door, or perhaps even the side of your home itself. And keep in mind that backyards are often not completely level, so if you are setting up on your lawn, choose a place with this in mind. Finally, if you need an extension cord, account for its length—you don’t want to realize that it’s a few inches short of the outlet after everything’s been set up!
Once you have that nailed down, determine how you’ll get a screen. You have two options: make one or purchase one. The easiest and most convenient choice is to pull a white sheet taut and securely attach it to your chosen vertical space. However, you might just want to buy a portable projector screen that you can unfold within minutes. (Inflatable ones are even available.)
Finally, you’ll need a projector. There are ample high-quality ones to choose from; most come with their own speakers, and many are readily compatible with smartphones, TV sticks, and HDMI hookups. If you want to mimic the full movie theater sound experience, try the sound bar from your TV or invest in speakers if you don’t own any—depending on your yard size and desired quality, you can get a pair for a surprisingly affordable price. Either way, make sure that your sound-enhancement device is compatible with your projector or you’ll unintentionally take everyone back to the silent-movie era.
Once you’ve decided on your equipment, you need to consider your overall setup, which will enhance your overall success.
Darkness—There are distinct positives and negatives to nighttime viewing. You’ll get the best picture, but you’ll also have to be aware of the time so that you don’t disturb your neighbors.
Direction—If you are starting your movie before sundown, be aware of where the sun sets on your property. The last thing you want is everyone struggling to see because they are staring into the sun or it’s reflecting off the screen.
Seating—Make sure that there’s enough space for everyone to sit comfortably—you don’t want people craning their necks to see. If you’re going for the full outdoor experience, use blankets or beach chairs on the grass. But if you already have a table and chairs on your deck, that would work as well. And ensure that your audience is positioned at a proper distance from the screen to see it well; for example, the chairs should be six to twelve feet away from a high-quality 100-inch screen. Test the proper viewing distance yourself before guests arrive.
Unwanted guests—There’s a good chance that insects may be as interested in your theater as you are (especially at and after dusk), so make sure to have plenty of citronella candles or torches handy. And check the forecast; you don’t want bad weather to put a damper on the proceedings.
Now that you’ve got your DIY theater set up, complete the experience with movie-style food and drinks! Fresh popcorn for your moviegoers is a must, of course, but if they want it buttered for the full effect, indulge a bit (but keep it in moderation).
Want to go beyond the ordinary with your culinary? Whip up some chocolaty popcorn bars or pepperoni twists. Be careful, though—they’re so good, they might just distract viewers from the movie!
Finally, you’ll need drinks. Soda is a staple at the movies, but have other options available as well. Water is the healthiest choice for outside, of course, but include adult beverages as well if you wish. And consider whipping up a big batch of lemonade for the full summer taste experience!
As you can see, creating your own backyard movie theater can be as easy as it is fun, as long as you take into account what goes into it. It should take less than an hour to set up, and all the summer memories being made will be priceless.