There’s something magical about watching a movie outdoors—the fresh air, the novelty of a big screen under the stars, the excitement of a group of people all laughing along their favorite lines. And you don’t have to wait for your local park district to host a screening, either, when you create your own outdoor movie theater right in your backyard. Here’s what you’ll need.
Create a stadium-style effect by arranging a semi-circle of comfortable outdoor lounge chairs, sofas, and chaises for adults. Then spread thick picnic blankets—or even sleeping bags—for kids on the grass closer to the screen. Scatter oversized pillows, poufs, and extra light blankets within easy arm’s reach for everyone.
When your guests get up and down for snacks during the show, make sure to light their way with candles (real or battery-operated) in glass hurricanes, a strand of string lights overhead, or even rope lighting along the ground, similar to the aisle at an actual movie theater.
Snacks and Drinks
In a tucked-away spot away from the screen, set up your “concession stand.” Make it festive with a big popcorn popper complete with a buffet of toppings like melted butter, parmesan cheese, Cajun spices, and cinnamon sugar. For a fun touch, buy individual popcorn bags—you can find old-fashioned red-and-white bags or customizable brown paper bags online.
Other easy food ideas include sophisticated meat and cheese boards for adults, homemade pizza cut into small squares, and bowls of miniature candy bars for all to enjoy. Just avoid foods that are drippy or difficult to eat in the dark.
Beer and wine are the logical way to go for drinks—they’re easy to pour and can be sipped over the course of a couple of hours as the movie plays. Make them feel special with a bar cart set-up complete with pretty ice buckets and attractive melamine glassware, rather than disposable plastic.
There are lots of different options when it comes to the key components you’ll need to actually screen your movie: a projector, a screen, a sound system, and a media player. If cost is no object and you foresee using these components time and again, there are amazing high-quality inflatable screens and high-pixel projectors on the market. But you’ll have just as much fun with a king-sized white bed sheet hung on the side of your house or garage, a low-cost (or rented) projector, your laptop computer, and your best Bluetooth speaker cranked way up.
Just be sure to test your set-up before movie night, checking to make sure your connections work and finding out how dark it needs to be outside before your movie shows up nice and bright on the screen
Fun and Games
An idea we love? As dusk begins to fall, get your guests excited to watch the movie and draw them to their seats with “previews,” like clips from wildlife documentaries and classic cartoons. Consider raffling off a pair of tickets to a movie at a local theater, and plan something participatory for intermission—a trivia game or a toast with a special batched cocktail will help keep the mood festive.
Amalie Drury is an expert on home design and furniture trends writing on the behalf of Crate and Barrel. She has written extensively on related topics for publications such as Modern Luxury (where she formerly served as senior editor), Time Out, the Chicago Tribune, and PureWow, a women’s lifestyle site where she also worked as an editor.
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