Stuff We Love
What You Need for a DIY Backyard Movie Theater
An outdoor movie night isn’t just an event fit for parks and common areas— you can set up a DIY backyard movie theater of your own! All you need is the right equipment and setup, which is why we’ve put together a list of everything necessary for a movie night out on your own lawn.
Backyard Movie Projector
Don’t even think about dragging your indoor TV system outside. For a real movie night outdoors, you need a portable projector. Fortunately, there are many home projectors available these days at a variety of prices. Pay close attention to the lumens (how bright the projector is) and the resolution at the desired range. You will also want to make sure that your projector can handle your content format (Blu-ray, external hard drive, HDMI connection, etc.). Don’t rush this purchase.
DIY Outdoor Movie Screen
Where will you project your movie? An old DIY standard is a sheet tacked up on a fence or wall, but that isn’t dependable, and the slightest breeze will wreak havoc with the picture. Instead, the ambitious can build a PVC pipe frame for a more professional-looking screen. Or buy an outdoor screen that comes with its own firm stand. Looking for a more go-big-or-go-home screen for a larger group? Try renting an inflatable screen.
You may have a picture, but now you need sound. A basic soundbar is relatively easy to move out and hook up to a projector if it is compatible and if you have one on hand. If you have a Bluetooth speaker, you may be able to connect it to your projector as well, depending on capabilities. Or consider buying a durable, affordable speaker seat (a three-piece set is usually sufficient) that you can bring out as needed. This is also a good time to explore any local or HOA regulations on noise levels and backyard sound, just in case your DIY backyard movie theater needs a few tweaks. Check out our ultimate buying guide on home theater sound systems and wireless speakers.
Okay, all the important technical elements are ready to go! But now you need to start thinking about the people! Pick a place for everyone to sit: Smaller gatherings can make do with a few blankets, but larger groups may require folding chairs to make enough room. An ideal solution, if possible, is to have people sit on the deck or patio and position the screen out in the lawn (house lights must be turned off). Remember to include extra blankets and cushions for maximum comfort, and use materials that are OK to get damp or a little dirty.
Go more casual with snack food. Try to use bowls and cups when possible to help avoid making a mess, and focus on foods that are easy to eat without getting your hands too dirty or requiring a lot of silverware—there’s a reason popcorn is a popular movie food! When it comes to drinks, think about an outdoor drink dispenser for serving larger crowds.
Bugs happen, and you need to be prepared. Avoid wet areas or standing water, and to ward off mosquitoes try using natural defenses like citronella candles or torches. Remember that moths (followed by bats) are naturally attracted to light, so you may have to deal with a certain amount of nighttime creatures.
A calm, warm night is important for the best DIY backyard movie theater. When making plans, it’s a very good idea to check the weather forecast and see if it agrees with you. The nice thing about an outdoor movie at your house is that you can always move it indoors if it starts raining, but it’s better to find the right evening first.