Planning An Outdoor Movie Night

I have been attempting to plan a backyard movie night for the last couple of years but never managed to pull it off! As we are heading towards spring and (hopefully) warmer evenings I thought it was about time to think about dusting down the BBQ and start planning, what will hopefully be the first of many open air movie nights!


What You Need:

Most of the technical stuff for setting up a simple outdoor cinema you probably already have and what you don’t you can usually hire, borrow or buy quite easily.

Projector - A basic, business projector is all you need to show a garden movie. Colleges and schools are a good source for hiring during the summer. If you want to buy, have a look through the classifieds in your local newspaper or check out used deals online and read the customer reviews.

Laptop and projector cable - Any ordinary laptop work's with most new-ish projectors and a single-cable connection is pretty much all there is to the set up.

Screen - To make a screen, simply drape a flat, double bedsheet over a tall garden fence and fix with adjustable clamps. Glazed folding patio doors work just as well if you tape your sheet firmly to the glass and remember to turn the lights out behind it.

Speakers - Again you don’t need to invest loads here, a decent set of desktop speakers are fine unless you’re going for surround-sound and selling tickets! Most projectors have built-in speakers but the sound isn’t crisp enough for an outdoor movie, so external speakers are your best bet.

Worktable - You need enough space for the projector, laptop and cables, a bit of elbow room to work and some extra for things like DVD cases and a torch – a small kitchen table is perfect.

Electrical extension cable - A standard 7 - 10m extension cable should be long enough to run power from the house to the garden.

How To Set Up.

Depending on the size of your garden, the projector and your audience, set up your equipment table no more than 5m from your screen. If this is your first time on the big screen, do a dry-run to test the equipment, adjust light and sound levels and iron out any issues before the event itself – nobody minds the odd one or two glitches, but too much downtime is dull.


Screening a movie after dark is best, so think about twining some fairy lights into the garden trees or setting up a few small solar lamps. They look pretty and create even more of a magical, movie-night atmosphere.

Legendary outdoor cinemas like Freiluftkino in Berlin seat the audience in deckchairs. Since you probably don’t have so much space to spread out, think rugs, blankets and cushions instead – have a few folding garden chairs on standby, just in case.

Some Movie Ideas.

The make or break for your outdoor movie night is obviously going to be the movie itself and the choice is down to your audience. If it’s a mixture of kids and adults, think animated classics like Despicable Me, Toy Story, Shrek, Madagascar or pretty much anything from the likes of Pixar or DreamWorks. A kids-only party can work super-heroes with Thor, X-Men, Captain America or princesses with Frozen, Cinderella or Brave. And older kids and adults have the endless catalogue of action franchises from legends like Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean to Jurassic World and Batman.

You can always stream a movie. But for first timers, DVDs are a lot less work and you can relax a bit and enjoy the experience without buffer-dread.

Once you’ve got the hang of outdoor movies, they’re a great way to theme an event from an engagement party screening romantic classics to a Sweet Sixteen with teen favourites or a pre-school party showing toons on loop.

Food For Film Fanatics


It’s spring time, it’s outdoors and it’s movie night so have a barbecue and focus on hotdogs, popcorn, ice cream and long, cool drinks. If you’re serving Frankfurters, pre-cook them in boiling water and just sear them on the grill. And don’t forget traditional rolls, mustard, ketchup and a pile of fried onions on the side. Buttered or sweet aren’t the only popcorn options, so be a bit imaginative with this all-time movie favourite. Ice cream is easiest to deal with if you use cones – remember to have plenty of napkins or kitchen roll.

Then just sit back and enjoy the best outdoor movie night ever, guaranteed.


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