Watching movies is one of the best ways to spend a weekend with your friends and family, but sometimes you just want to stay home instead of traveling to the local cinema. Why not turn your backyard into a magical movie theater?
We love going to the movies because of the oversized screen, fantastic popcorn, and immersive experiences. Your TV just isn’t the same.
By creating a backyard “drive-in,” you’ll have all the perks of going to the theater without leaving your house. It’s the perfect setup.
Considerations for Your Backyard Movie Theater
Before jumping in your car and going to the local home store to buy equipment, you should ask yourself the following questions:
How Many People Will Be Coming?
Movies are best experienced when surrounded by loved ones. Consider how many people will watch your movie screen at any given time. Most home movie theater projectors range in sizes from 100 inches to 300 inches.
A small screen will be suitable if you’re going to watch films with your family or a small group of friends. If you’re planning on having a lot of people around for movie night, pick a larger option.
How Much Space Do You Have?
Another vital aspect to consider when making a backyard movie theater is how much space you have to work with and where you will place the screen and projector.
The ideal viewing distance from the screen is 1-1.5 times the size. For example, if you have a screen that’s 200 inches, the minimum distance should be 16.5 ft away from where you’re sitting.
Once you’ve measured the space, you’ll be able to determine what screen size you can place in your garden.
Do You Want the Movie Theater To Be Portable?
If you want to install your backyard movie theater permanently, you can use features that can be fixed in place. If you’re setting up the theater for a one-off occasion like a birthday party or as a seasonal event, you might want to make it more portable.
You might also want a cover like a permanent structure or a temporary canopy over the movie area, or a sudden rainfall could ruin your cinema setup. And, no one wants that.
Creating Your Backyard Movie Theater
Here’s how to get everything prepared, including snacks!
The location is the first thing to choose when you’re starting to create a backyard movie theater. Find a space that is dry and ideally sheltered from the wind. You’ll need access to electricity and an area to project the image onto.
You can place the screen at the end of a garden or against a fence. Hang a sheet off of your patio roof or the side of the garage. You could even project the image against the side of your home if the surface is large enough and clear of things like windows or doors.
A flat wall is excellent for the projector screen as it provides a stable background and the picture won’t move with any wind, unlike with a projector.
Avoid setting up the theater too close to street lights as this can interfere with the movie details.
After you’ve chosen the ideal spot, the magic can begin!
Choose a Projector
In the past, hardly anyone could afford projectors as they were expensive and designed for complete blackout situations, which many people couldn’t achieve in their homes.
Thankfully, now you can find affordable projectors that can be used in brighter environments and installed at home. They are also available in compact sizes, making them easy to install in a backyard.
You should look out for the lumens feature on a projector; this is the measurement that enables you to see an image in light or dark conditions. The higher the lumens measurement, the easier it is to see the picture in bright locations.
Attach a Video Source
If your projector has the right connections, you can connect a phone, tablet, or laptop. If it has Bluetooth, you can project your device’s screen without a physical connection. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for attaching whichever source you decide to use.
For sound, you can attach the speaker through the 3.5 mm jack or use a Bluetooth connection to attach to a speaker, depending on what your projector can do. You can even attach the speakers with headphones if you want to watch a movie alone and don’t want to disturb your family or neighbors.
Some projectors have built-in sound, though it usually isn’t very good.
Make a Movie Screen
The movie screen can be the cheapest part of building a backyard movie theater. If you have a white sheet and some clips, you can hang them up on branches or a washing line. Or tape it to the side of the house using painter’s tape.
For extra security, you can weigh down the sheet with heavy rock or anything else that will keep the screen steady.
You can also buy a portable screen with a built-in stand. Or just use the side of a house, garage, fence, or barn. Or just build your own with some wood and paint!
Make the Space Cozy
Now for the final steps: seating. You want to be comfortable while you watch your films. You can go all out and set up chairs and sofas facing the screen or do something as simple as blankets on the lawn.
Make the area extra cozy by adding lots of cushions, blankets, and other soft items to make the space more comfortable for your guests.
If you expect many guests, you can hang up a hammock or use benches for more seating.
To extend the season and add some ambiance, add a firepit or some patio heaters. You can use a gas fire if you don’t want to fuss with maintaining the flames or you can go old school and build a wood fire.
If you go the latter route, you can bring in the marshmallows and make s’mores!
Remember to keep the fire pit far away from the projector screen, or you could accidentally set the sheet on fire.
Although movie theaters are often as dark as possible, a backyard movie theater can be as sparkly and bright as you want. You can hang fairy lights along a fence or light candles near the seating area. This can help set the right mood and make the space feel cozy.
Prepare the Snacks
To host the ultimate movie night, you must have a stock of great snacks and drinks ready. Let’s be honest; movie snacks are the best part, right?
After your backyard movie theater is ready, you can head to the shops to buy various snacks such as chips, chocolate, sweets, and popcorn. For drinks, you can fill a cooler with ice and keep a mixture available during the movie.
Here are some other suggestions for movie snacks:
- Hot dogs
- Ice cream
- Milk duds
- Gummy bears
Cookie dough is a classic treat that goes perfectly with a movie. You don’t need many ingredients to make this cookie dough treat. You can follow this recipe to make cookie dough for your next movie marathon!
If you’re a frequent movie watcher and you love popcorn, consider investing in a popcorn maker. You can buy models that look similar to the ones in the theater, adding an authentic feel to your backyard theater.
By the way, here’s a guide to growing your own popcorn to make the experience extra exciting.
Pick the Movie
Finally, you must decide what movie to stream at home. If it’s near Christmas time, you can line up a few festive classics like The Grinch, Santa Claus, or Home Alone. Or, if it’s summer, you can watch Grease or another holiday film that cheers you up!
Then, you can sit back, relax and enjoy all your hard work.
Backyard Movie Theaters Are the Best
Besides being convenient, home movie theaters allow you to run to the bathroom without missing the good parts of a film. You can simply pause the movie and resume when you’re done. It’s way better than missing a chunk of the story at the cinema.
If you have children, a home movie theater is ideal as they can grab their favorite toy or have their favorite snack without disrupting other people in the theater. Afterward, they can go straight to bed without having to travel home.
Ultimately, a home movie theater allows you to relax completely. You can wear your pajamas or host a dinner/movie night with all your friends and family. If you want to build a backyard movie theater, follow this guide, and don’t forget about the snacks!