How To Plan For An Outdoor Movie Night

Written By Kenneth Wilson  |  0 Comments

Aside from hosting pool parties or evening cookouts, another event you can do is an outdoor movie night. Instead of the old sofa and television, wouldn’t it be nice to have a relaxing evening watching films under the stars?

Lounging in your backyard with friends and family, the cool breeze and darkness brought by the evening make the perfect ambiance for an outdoor movie theatre. Some people like to do it extravagantly, while others are fine with the basic movie and seats.

Of course, if you want to go simple, don’t just get a table with a laptop or television on it. At least prepare more than that to provide a nice cinematic experience. If you’ve never planned an outdoor movie night or felt like something is always missing in yours, here’s how you can turn an ordinary evening into an epic movie night.

1. Getting a Projector

Bring the full cinematic experience outdoors by using a projector for your movie night. Even if you’re a small group, it would be more fun to watch with a projector than on a television or laptop.

There are several ways you can get a projector. You can borrow, rent, or buy one, but your friend might be using it or you don’t have the budget for one. If these options are not available to you, you can also create your own projector! With a magnifying glass, shoebox, and smartphone, you can have a DIY projector.

What you will need:

  • Magnifying glass
  • Foam board
  • Shoebox
  • Masking tape
  • Cutter
  • Hacksaw
  • Glue gun
  • Glue
  • Ruler
step 1

Prepare the housing of the projector, which is the shoebox. Reinforce the movable flaps inside the shoebox with glue to avoid it from wobbling when cutting the hole for the lens.

step 2

Remove the handle of the magnifying glass using the hacksaw, leaving the lens and frame.

step 3

After the glue dries, trace the lens on the short side of the shoebox.

step 4

Cut the traced hole using a cutter and then check if the lens fits perfectly.

step 5

Use the glue gun to permanently stick the lens to the shoebox.

step 6

Place the lid of the shoebox and use the cutout from the lens to trace on the lid. This will help you see what you need to remove from the lid so it doesn't block the lens.

step 7

For the phone stand, you will need to use the foam board and ruler to make sure it fits in the shoebox.

step 8

Cut another piece of foam board and use the glue gun to stick it perpendicularly to the first piece. Make sure that it is perpendicular to avoid image distortion.

step 9

Use the tape to mount your phone to the center of the stand.


The phone should be placed upside down because the lens will invert the picture on the wall, and move the phone stand around to find the perfect focus. Also, according to some users, paint the inside of the shoebox with black to reduce light reflection and sharpen the image. It also might not work if your magnifying glass lens is too thick. Use a less powerful or thinner lens to project an image further away. If you’re going to use a thick one, you will need to bring the projector closer to the wall or screen.

Works indoors and outdoors
Full HD 1080P LED
Compatible with smartphone, games, HDMI, AV, USB, SD, VGA, and TV stick
Has a headphone plug
Comes with a 100-inch projector screen

2. Setting up the screen

The projector recommended above comes with a screen, but what if you’re not planning on buying that one?

It’s important to get a quality screen for your movie night. Why? Even if you buy an expensive projector, the output won’t matter if the screen it’s projecting to is not white, clear, or smooth. Imagine watching a movie with random black marks or lines in it, it’s going to be annoying.

This doesn’t mean you have to invest in an expensive screen. Aside from borrowing or renting, there are two other options you can do. The first is using a nice smooth white wall - if you’re lucky enough to have one. If not, you can use a white sheet and pin it to the wall, fence, or hang it in a clothesline. But if you don’t mind the lines and textures, you can make do with any light-colored wall.

The other option is to create a DIY projector screen. You’ll need a canvas dropcloth, some PVC pipes, grommets, and velcro ties. Find out how in this guide.

If you have a projector already or need a new screen, you can check out this projector screen.

Portable and lightweight
100-inch Diagonal, 160° wide-viewing angle
Capable of 4K HD rear front projections
Made out of high-quality polyester and spandex
Wrinkle-free, washable, and easy to install
Comes with a carry bag

3. Extending the sound

You may have the right screen and the projector, but don’t overlook the sound system. Most people think that the speakers of their projectors are enough, but it’s not, especially against the sounds of nature. You will need to add more speakers to make sure that you can hear the movie and not rely on subtitles.

When choosing an outdoor speaker for your outdoor movie night, it’s important to consider the projector you’re using, its portability, frequency of usage, and the size of the party. 

It’s important to buy the speaker after getting your projector. This way, you can check if it’s compatible before spending money on this device. You should also choose if you’re getting a wireless or wired speakers. If you have a great Wi-Fi connection in your yard, you might want to get a wireless one to avoid clutter.

Next, determine how often you will use it so you can choose between wall-mounted types or portable ones. You may want to get portable ones if you change the location of your movie night indoors or at another person’s home.

For the size of the party, as long as you have less than 30 guests, a normal quality speaker will be capable of providing sound to everybody.

If you want soundbar speakers, mounted speakers, disguised speakers, and budget speakers for outdoor movie nights, check out the Outdoor Movie Projector’s recommendations here.

Stereo sounds with 200 watts of continuous power
Comes with 5 drivers and a 6.5" dual-voice coil subwoofer
Delivers deep bass, crisp treble, and balanced mids.
Lasts for 9 hours unplugged or you can keep it plugged in
Two-year warranty
Connects to multiple devices wirelessly and also comes with a 3.5mm audio jack for direct connection

4. You’ll need the right amount of lighting

You have to schedule the movie in the evening because if you have it before sunset, you won’t be able to see anything. The screen won’t be clear with the sun still out, that’s why you have to wait for it to get dark.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be total darkness. You will still need some lighting to get snacks, go to the bathroom, and avoid tripping on wires and other people. If you don’t have ample lighting or have too much, maybe you can find inspiration in these DIY patio lights to illuminate your outdoor area.

5. Provide comfortable outdoor seating

Now that you’ve set up everything you need to play the movie, it’s time to prepare the seating.

There are different seating options you can offer to your guests, one of them is patio chairs. You may not have to get new chairs if you already have some patio chairs in your outdoor area. Most yards have lounge chairs, which are great since you have the option to adjust the back of the chair.

Also, most patio chairs are comfortable since they are used when people want to relax in their yard. If you don’t have one, check out these different types of patio chairs.

(Source: Pinterest)

If you have a soft and well-maintained lawn, you don’t have to drag chairs around. You can scatter several bean bags or lay down some picnic blankets. Make them feel comfortable by providing some pillows and extra sheets if ever it gets cold. You can also warm the place up by placing some outdoor space heaters around the venue.

(Related article: Which is Better: Propane or Electric Patio Heater?)

Another thing you can do, if you have the time and budget, is using inflatable mattresses. One mattress can seat several people, so it doesn’t have to be a lot. Of course, this would increase the chance of you or anyone falling asleep, but it’s their choice if they’re going to miss out on the movie.

To make things fun, you also can get inflatable hot tubs — but maybe if you’re hosting for a few people. Imagine feeling warm and great in a hot tub while watching under the stars. That would be awesome! The only thing left to do is making sure that everyone you invited is fine with the idea and brought their swimsuits with them.

6. Prepare some snacks

Movie nights wouldn’t be complete if you’re not munching on snacks. You can cook some hotdogs and prepare some bread and dip. If you want something simple, microwave some popcorn or buy some chips. While you’re at the grocery store, add some nuts, pretzels, candies, and chocolate bars in your cart.

You should also write drinks on your grocery list. Provide some water, juice, soda, and/or wine. Some hot cocoa would also be great during a chilly evening. If you have hot chocolate, why not get some marshmallows as well? You can even make s’mores if you have a fire pit.

(Related article: Which Outdoor Fire Pit Should You Get?)

If you don’t have the time to prepare any of the ones above, probably because you’ll be setting up the screen, projector, and everything else, you can always get some pizza delivered. There may also be a nearby place that serves nachos — now, that would be a nice movie night snack.

7. Choosing the movie

After setting everything up perfectly and preparing the snacks you need, it may all be in vain if you don’t choose the right movie. It’s difficult to pick the right movie choice, especially if your audience is going to be a mix of people with different tastes. It’s hard enough to choose for a group with similar age, what more if you have adults and children going to your movie night?

Unless you can make a poll for your guests to vote, you can try apps like Popflake. It’s a new app that helps people find movies based on the keywords they input. Currently, the movies are tagged by hand by beta users. It contains 1,200 movies, but they’re adding at least one movie per day. Try it out if you can’t find a movie to watch or you can just check these 19 best movies of 2019.

(Source: IndieWire)

8. Preparing for bugs and light showers

Everything is perfect and going according to plan, that is until you notice a bug swarming over your friend’s head. Your movie night can easily be ruined by pesky insects or sudden rain shower.

Don’t let the bugs bite and deploy mosquito prevention techniques. One option is to use mosquito repellent, but not everyone is a fan of slathering mosquito repellent on their skin. There are even some who wouldn’t want to use chemical-based products, so you might need to have a natural mosquito repellent on hand.

You can also prevent bugs from swarming in the area by fogging the place. Most mosquito foggers can be used an hour before you will be in the area. This will kill present mosquitoes and prevent them from invading your yard at most 12 hours — and you probably won’t be staying outdoors for that long.

(Related article: Bugs Begone: 6 Mosquito Control Devices That Work)

Lastly, you need to be prepared when it rains. One way you can shelter your guests and equipment is having patio umbrellas. If you don’t have one, there are different types of patio umbrellas, and here are some of the best ones.

About the Author

I can build it, and I can help you get the patio enclosure you want! I got my start in the Florida patio industry back in the 70s as a young general laborer looking for something to make a few bucks. At the time I never thought it would end up as my career. Over the years I grew beyond the laborer position, becoming a foreman, superintendent, and then into executive management for some of the largest patio contractors, and material vendors. Now into retirement and slightly bored, I offer consulting services to new and existing contractors, and publish this website to help the people who love their patio's and screen enclosures the most - YOU!

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