When the weather finally warms up, it’s tempting to do everything outdoors. From pool parties and picnics to family reunions, your backyard is the perfect spot for summer entertaining. When the sun goes down, though, the party doesn’t have to stop; it’s an opportunity for a backyard movie night! We’ll show you how to throw together an outdoor movie night that’s so easy, it’ll be up and running before your popcorn is done. (Speaking of popcorn, here are some gourmet popcorn recipes you have to try.)
Choose a movie
Before planning anything else, you should decide what movie to put up on the big screen. Not only will this help with planning snacks and decorations, but it’ll also prevent any last-minute squabbles between siblings who want to watch something different.
If your movie night is going to be a family affair, try to choose a movie that everyone will enjoy, regardless if they’re six or sixty. We suggestion these:
- Disney. One of the recent live-action movies, like Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book or Maleficent, will entertain kids and parents alike.
- Star Wars. Introduce your kids to “a galaxy far, far away” while sitting under the stars! If your children are still pretty young, you might want to start off with The Force Awakens, as the 1977 effects of A New Hope might not hold their interest.
- A classic. Bring back a favorite movie from your own childhood like The Wizard of Oz, The Goonies, E.T. or The Muppet Movie.
Once you’ve picked out a movie, make sure you have a way to watch it. That might mean purchasing or renting a hard copy or streaming it on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu or another service.
Set up your theater
Bringing the movie theater-experience outdoors requires some equipment. Here are some things you’ll want to make sure you have on hand:
- A projector. When it comes to outdoor movie nights, a projector is a must. We like this model from Wsky’s since its LED lens provides a bright, clear picture and can be controlled remotely. Plus, it’s compatible with laptops, Roku and Amazon Fire sticks, SD cards and gaming systems, so you can watch your movie no matter how it’s stored or streamed.
- A screen. Depending on how your yard is organized, you can project the movie onto the side of your house or garage. If those structures are made of something too textured, like siding or brick, a portable screen might be a better bet. This free-standing screen from PERLESMITH comes with its own tripod, has a 160° viewing angle and is height adjustable. If you want an IMAX-like movie experience, go with this huge 144″ portable screen from Visual Apex.
- Speakers. Unless your projector has multiple built-in speakers, you’ll probably want to hook up an external speaker so all your guests can hear the movie. AOMAIS’ GO portable speaker is a great option as it can connect with devices via Bluetooth or an audio jack and is battery operated, so you don’t have to worry about plugging it in.
- Extension cords. If your speakers or projector aren’t battery operated, make sure you have a few extension cords handy to reach from your closest outlet to the devices. Digital Energy offers a 6-outlet, 50-foot long power strip that would work well.
Make it comfortable
Ensure that you and your guests can kick back in comfort with these items:
- Grab lots of pillows and blankets to create a picnic-like environment on your lawn.
- If you’re setting your movie night up on a driveway, blankets might not be plush enough to soften the ground. Instead, put out patio or folding camping chairs. You can also ask your guests to bring their own camping chairs if you don’t have enough to seat everyone.
- Keep mosquitos and other bugs from buzzing in your ear with citronella candles and bug spray. You can even set out a pot of bug-repelling plants like lavender, basil, rosemary and mint.
- Light the way to the snack table or bathroom with walkway lights or inexpensive flashlights. This will help prevent anyone from accidentally stepping on a fellow guest or tripping over any equipment. Cover all your bases with these essential products for your outdoor movie night.
Serve movie theater classics
Taste of Home
Make it easy on yourself and set up a self-serve snack and beverage bar. That way, your guests can grab the treats they like and easily help themselves to seconds or thirds! Here’s how to stock the bar:
- Is it even a movie night if you don’t have popcorn? Pop a bunch of snack-sized popcorn bags and provide mix-ins like clarified butter, salt, caramel sauce, powdered ranch, grated Parmesan cheese or cinnamon-sugar.
- Satisfy sweet-tooths with theater candies like Twizzlers, Sno Caps, Swedish Fish, Junior Mints and more.
- If you’re looking to serve something more substantial than popcorn and candy, turn to one of these easy appetizers that are made with 5-ingredients or fewer.
- Serve bottled water and soft drinks out of a cooler that’s at least 25% full of ice to be sure they stay cold even after the movie has ended. Serve beer and other adult beverages in a separate cooler to ensure there are no accidental mix-ups with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
- Stick to disposable plates and napkins to make your clean up a breeze.
More fun ideas
Even though the movie is the main event, you can add to the fun of the night with some of these activities:
- While your guests are still trickling in, play a game of movie-related trivia or charades to get the fun started.
- Hand out glow sticks to light up the night. The kids can even use them after the movie has ended to play glow tag. Here are more ways to take your outdoor movie night to the next level.
- If you have a fire pit, roast s’mores for a late-night treat.
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