The Ultimate Guide To Creating A Backyard Movie Theater

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Are you looking for the perfect backyard activity now that the weather is cooling off? There's nothing better than curling up with a blanket and a snack while you dive into your favorite movie. Here's the ultimate guide to creating a backyard movie theater that will make your home the hotspot around the neighborhood. Backyard movie theaters are great for the fall because you can snuggle up and stay warm and still take advantage of the last of the mild weather. However, this addition to your backyard isn't just for autumn; with a few adjustments, they can also be perfect for long summer nights.

Investing in a backyard theater will go a long way for many reasons. You can create one without spending too much money, and it's something that will never go out of style. According to Premiere Outdoor Movies, there are many benefits that come with gathering with family and friends to watch a movie, so why not do it outside? Movies have always been great conversation starters, but connecting over a movie also builds strong family bonds, encourages connections between family and friends, and the memories of snuggling up under the stars for a favorite movie could last a lifetime.

The idea of creating a whole movie theater in your backyard may seem daunting, from choosing the seating to the screen to the technology. However, there are really only a few details that you need to focus on. The growing popularity of outdoor screenings has led to simpler technology and a few inexpensive items that will take your backyard to a whole new level.

Choosing the right projector

There are so many options when it comes to projectors, and they range from small portable machines that can pair to your smartphone to large contraptions that can be permanently installed and give you a true theater experience, according to Projector People. Choosing the right projector will depend on your budget, the size of your screen, and the clarity you want.

According to Best Buy, there are four commonly used projector types that are used in various situations, from businesses and bright settings to private homes or in rooms with little space. The main types of projectors you should focus on for backyard theaters are home theater projectors, portable options, and ultra-short throw projectors if you are tight on space, such as on a deck or in a small backyard

Portable options are great because you can easily move them inside and out, depending on where you want to watch your movie. They're compact, so they're easy to travel with and can easily upgrade your next vacation or party. Home projectors are built to last, but that also means they are usually meant to be mounted permanently to the ceiling. If you have a covered area that works for your backyard theater, this might be an option, or else it might not be the right fit. Ultra short-throw projectors are exactly what they sound like — they can display clear images without a lot of space, meaning you can place your projects right near your screen without worrying about clarity. This might be a great option if you want your screen and projector under a covered area such as a deck, porch, or gazebo, while your seating can be throughout the yard.

The big screen

Where you'll need to place your projector and screen may take some trial and error before you find the exact right spot, but there are many options and fairly simple products that can make the process easier. From sheets to portable tripods, your screen will determine how big your picture is and can affect how clearly the movie displays. The size of your yard and how many people will be watching can help you determine the size you should be aiming for. The good news is that there are many flexible, affordable options that will suit your individual needs. Some are extremely easy, such as a blank wall, a bed sheet, and even projector paint, according to ProjectorTop.

If you have a blank wall, you're in luck. This is the easiest way to project your screen. However, if you're looking for an extremely clear picture without shadows or interruptions, you can consider special reflective projector paint or simply hanging a clean, white sheet over the wall. In your backyard, the garage door, the side of your house, or even a tall fence can provide space for a screen. If you're committed to hanging a sheet over a wall, then you should try a very high thread count or double up on sheets to provide a solid background that isn't transparent (via Projector Top).

Portable tripod screens are another easy solution that will make your theater flexible and easy to move inside or even to a friend's house. These standard screens can range from approximately 70 inches to 100 inches, according to Staples. You can also quickly collapse and fold these screens for easy storage or travel.

Surround sound options

If you are projecting your movie through a phone or computer, you will definitely need speakers or a surround sound system to create the ultimate viewing experience. There's nothing worse than watching a movie on a huge screen only to discover the sound doesn't reach further than a few feet. Portable speakers you can take inside and out are a great option, or you can really commit and add a more permanent sound system to your backyard, which can be great for barbecues and other backyard gatherings.

If you're leaning toward an outdoor speaker, you'll want to search for a modern and durable product. All-weather speakers are designed to withstand light rain and wind but are typically placed or installed where they are partially covered, such as under a roof or gazebo, according to Tom's Guide. However, there are also water-proof options built for the wettest conditions — you can even tote them to the beach. These are often battery-operated and portable, so be sure to test out the sound or purchase more than one if you want the audio to carry throughout a large backyard.

According to Wirecutter, another sensible option for movie and music lovers is a pair of quality bookshelf speakers that produce amazing sound and are still on the smaller, more portable side. These speakers, such as the Q Acoustics 3020i or the Dayton Audio B652, are stylish, will last longer, and inexpensive amplifiers are an option. These speakers are a few steps up from your typical Bluetooth speaker that tend to be loud but not necessarily clear. If sound quality is important to you, you'll likely need to invest in some good equipment.

Get comfortable with good seating

Getting comfortable on the couch with a few blankets is simple when you're inside, but here are a few seating options that will be just as cozy for you and your guests while watching an outdoor movie. Collapsable, portable seating doesn't need to be uncomfortable. According to True Places, folding chairs can be comfortable and durable. They have come a long way since the traditional campsite or sporting event chair. With new fabrics, new folding technology, and features such as movable cup holders and lightweight carrying cases, you can easily transform your backyard with comfortable seating. Investing in a good folding chair is a no-brainer for your home theater, and they're multi-purpose.

Part of the joy of backyard theaters is being in the comfort of your own space. You don't need to worry about kicking someone's chair or getting squished in the back row. Encourage your family and guests to stretch out and get comfortable. This is especially easy when you use outdoor ground cushions. According to Foter Magazine, outdoor floor cushions can be used independently or to make your existing outdoor seating even cozier.

Beach chairs are another way to transform your backyard into a movie theater with tons of comfortable seating. Ask your friends and neighbors to bring their own or invest in a set that will last for years to come. According to Travel + Leisure, beach chairs that offer the option to recline and are portable, lightweight, and durable make the best options.

Add a bar cart to easily display snacks and drinks

You can't do movie night, inside or out, without snacks and beverages. A well-placed and decorated bar cart is the perfect way to condense your snacks and make them accessible for guests and family members throughout the movie. With the addition of a bar cart, your movie night will have an authentic feel, and you can fill it with all of the traditional concession stand favorites.

Your cart can be beautiful or purely functional. It can have wheels or permanently reside on your patio, but there are a few ways to style it to make it really stand out. According to Jessica Lagrange Interiors, the bar cart has been around for a long while and often brings to mind class and sophistication. They continue to grow in popularity because they are convenient and offer a great opportunity for some fun decor.

Emily Henderson recommends a few tricks for styling and organizing your bar cart so it's functional and beautiful. Something aesthetic and often tall belongs on the top shelf. This is what people will see at first glance, and it's the perfect spot to add some greenery, flowers, or taller bottles. Use the bottom and middle shelves for more necessities, such as glasses, popcorn bowls, and napkins. Make sure you keep items organized and don't overcrowd the cart for a clean look. For movie night, consider adding popcorn seasoning and jars of candy for guests to scoop up.

Ambiance is everything

One of the best things about hitting the theater on a Friday night is the atmosphere. The sense of occasion and the crowd used to draw people out in their finest clothes. Your backyard theater can be comfortable and classy with the right touches. The ambiance is everything, and lighting is a great way to achieve the atmosphere you're looking for. 

Hanging lights can be tricky, especially if you don't have a lot of space or if you have too much space. According to Wirecutter, you should hang lights evenly spaced, ensure they are not wrapped or hung on anything that will degrade the wire or catch fire, and use hooks or zip ties to secure them. Hanging lights is a great way to add some soft light to your outdoor space, but there are other options as well. Candles are always smart for setting the scene. Consider clustering candles along walkways, on small side tables, and in corners. Be sure to keep open flames away from children and from anything that could start a fire. Battery-powered candles are a safe option that can easily be rearranged depending on where you need a little extra light. Lanterns can be scattered around on tables and railings, or you can place one at the foot of each chair to avoid tripping in the dark. Lanterns add a whimsical and convenient touch as they can easily be carried and moved around.

You don't want your lighting to interfere with the movie screen. Consider placing lights far apart, lining walkways and snack tables, and not placing them too close to the screen.

Keep the bugs away

Swatting mosquitoes and battling pesky insects is not part of the movie-going experience. Nothing is more distracting and uncomfortable than a swarm of bugs. Moths and other critters are likely to be attracted to lights, projectors, and movie screens, but there are ways to keep them at bay. Bug zappers and toxic sprays are not the only solutions. 

According to Western Exterminator, you can begin by cleaning up the backyard — stray crumbs and open food trays are bound to attract an audience. Cover your snacks and sweep away crumbs before you set up. Trading out bright white light bulbs with softer, yellow bulbs can also detract certain bugs. If you still want to add some lighting, try a few citronella candles or lanterns around the yard that will serve more than one purpose. Tiki torches are commonly used to keep bugs away, and they can be perfect for lining the path to your backyard and sticking them near seats. The warm glow will look beautiful, and they will keep your yard mosquito-free.

Citronella plants and other flowers are known for keeping pests away. Plant these gorgeous flowers around your seating area, or make them a home in a pot, so you can move them around the yard as needed. These natural bug repellents are more aesthetic than loud and bulky bug zappers. USA Today recommends using ornate soy wax citronella candles that will fit in seamlessly with your decor.

Watching a movie in the pool

Pool parties are a no-brainer in the summer sun, but what about when the sun goes down? If you are transforming your backyard into a personal theater, you might consider placing your screen near the pool for extra fun. If you've opted for a portable projector and a foldable tripod screen, you should be able to set the equipment up safely away from the water but close enough to view from a pool tube. The best part of this idea is that you can lounge on a pool float or keep your feet in the water while you enjoy the big screen.

Getting in and out of the water for snacks may not create the most relaxed atmosphere. According to Walmart, there are pool floats and floating coolers that make lounging and snacking a breeze. Choose from a large floating cooler with a lid and cup holders, a personal seat with a mini cooler, or even a double seater that has room for two and beverages. Floating coolers seem to come in every shape and size, including rainbows, palm trees, airplanes, and alligators. Find a cooler and other floats that suit your style and dive in.

If your pool is full of floating tubes and inflatable rafts while you watch a movie, you'll need a place to store them afterward. There's nothing sadder or less aesthetic than a half-deflated raft in your pool. According to Romper, a hanging mesh bag or raft racks are two simple ways to keep your pool organized and looking great.

Take your popcorn to the next level

The number one movie snack is popcorn, and there are more than a few ways to take your popcorn game to a new level. According to Pen + Paper Flowers, creating a killer popcorn bar for your guests is simple and a ton of fun. Kids and adults alike will love this layout.

You can start with a cart or a table will work great too. A cart can be pulled out during movie night, or it could be a great permanent fixture in your backyard. Any table that can be dressed up with a simple cloth or paint job will also work as well. On top of the cart or table, use large baskets or buckets lined with paper for the popcorn and add spoons for scooping. A stack of paper cups or bags nearby will allow your family and friends to take what they want. Display different seasonings along with salt and butter — this way, guests can make their treat precisely how they want it.

Mix and match other small decorative bowls to display movie chocolates and candies, such as Raisinetes and Reese's Pieces, that go great with popcorn. Consider adding chalkboard signs, labels, or a menu to add a truly finished look to your popcorn bar.

Make it official with ticket invites

Give your backyard home theater a final touch that everyone will love with movie tickets. According to PurpleTrail, you can order customized movie tickets with the movie's name, date, and other details, and you can even add a picture. Send these out to your guests as invitations that they will cherish. An added touch, like a real ticket, can be great for giving the night a sense of occasion. Leave room on the back of tickets for guests to rate the movie and name their favorite characters. You can collect the tickets at the end of the night to create a movie night album or collage.

Consider displaying the tickets from past movie nights as conversation starters and a way to remember all of your favorite nights. Small details like this can help take your backyard movie theater to a whole new level. With just a few items and a little creativity, your backyard will be the neighborhood favorite!