How To Plan An Outdoor Summer Movie Night At Home

One of my family’s favorite summer activities is outdoor movie night. My kids love being allowed to stay up past bedtime, eating loads of junk food snacks that are normally off-limits and seeing their favorite movies on a giant screen all from the comfort of our yard. No worries here about admission and snack prices, sitting next to a noisy stranger or your feet sticking to the theater floor. We loved outdoor movie night even pre-pandemic, but if you’re not ready to crowd into a packed theater quite yet, it’s a great time to give this fun activity a try!

The Equipment

Your two must-have items will be a projector and a screen where your movie will be viewed. Selecting the right projector is key for a successful movie night. There are many options available; check the specifications as you will need a projector appropriate for outdoor use with the correct input connections (to connect to your laptop, DVD player or phone). As far as sound goes, there are a variety of Bluetooth speakers that can connect with your device, or speaker systems you can plug into your computer to bring near-theatre quality sound to your movie in the great outdoors. When we lived in the country, we used a large, inflatable blow up movie screen because space wasn’t an issue. Most inflatable screens are quick to set up and take down in the event that bad weather rolls in- always a factor to consider when planning your movie night. Another option is to use a hanging screen or one with a triangle stand. If you are the DIY type, you could make your own with a a few simple materials or even use your garage door or a sheet draped over a clothesline. Many of the DIY screens use PVC pipe and a sheet or drop cloth. Decide ahead of time if you plan to use a DVD player or your Netflix account playing on a laptop. You may even be able to connect your cell phone directly into your projector. Be sure to test your equipment ahead of time. Set up close to electrical outlets with accessible extension cords if needed.

The Seating

During our movie nights, we usually drag a few lawn chairs and blankets over to the screen. You could also blow up an air mattress if you’re looking for a cozy movie experience. Or try these adorable DIY outdoor movie seats made using plywood, hinges and lounge cushions. A fun idea I spotted on Pinterest is to use a kiddie pool (minus the water obviously) and toss some blankets and pillows in there. One of my favorite things about outdoor movie night is getting to throw on my old sweats or ratty pajamas and curling up with a blanket to watch a movie in my own yard! If you plan to invite guests, have a few extra blankets and insect repellent on hand.

The Snacks

Will you ask guests to bring their own snacks or provide the treats? When we have hosted movie nights in the past, we provided popcorn and bottled water, but asked guests to bring a favorite treat or drink if they wished. I purchased several packs of reusable popcorn buckets from Dollar Tree and my kids love them! Shower caddies work perfectly as inexpensive treat-holders, too. Many theaters allow you to purchase to-go popcorn if you want the real thing. This upcycled palette recreated into a snack stand looks like a fun and simple way to display treats. But often during our impromptu movie nights, we just toss snacks onto an old folding table and it works!

Are you ready to try an outdoor movie night? Whether you keep it simple or go for a themed movie-watching experience, chances are your family will be asking to do this again soon!

Lauren and her husband Dan live in El Dorado with their two boys (born 2011 and 2014). They have added a goldendoodle, a hedgehog and two cats to their family in recent years and are expecting a daughter to join their crew at the end of 2020! She is an elementary school secretary, a member of the Junior League of Wichita and the Tri-County CASA Board of Directors. Lauren spent much of her childhood in Lawrence, Kansas and moved to El Dorado about ten years ago after her husband graduated from pharmacy school. She gets by on a lot of coffee and loves all the messy, fun, wild and wonderful parts of being a mom.