A warm summer night is the perfect excuse to stay up late watching movies out in your backyard or on your apartment’s rooftop, and we’ve gathered everything you’ll need in order to have a perfect outdoor movie night of your own.
To keep things nice and simple, we broke things down into two sections: “The Essentials” and “The Extras.” “The Essentials” section contains all of the basics you’ll need to get movie night up and running, while “The Extras” is full of fun things you don’t need to have but that might make the experience a little nicer. Although it may feel like this is a lot of stuff to purchase, pretty much all of it can be reused for other purposes like camping or just chilling on your back patio, so you’ll get a little more bang for your buck.
These items are all you need to have a successful movie night, but they aren’t necessarily your only option—there are plenty of ways to customize your setup to your liking, according to your needs and budget. And hey, if you feel like dragging your flatscreen outside instead of buying a projector and screen, more power to you.
A Movie Projector
Mini projectors are perfect for backyard movie nights. They’re much more portable and affordable than their full-sized counterparts, and maintain impressive throw distances, screen sizes, and built-in speakers, though you might still need to connect an external speaker for better sound. They also have decent battery life, but if you’re planning a double feature, you might want to keep the charging cable handy. It’s also worth noting that projector media compatibility varies by device—some have Wi-Fi and can directly connect to your Hulu or Netflix account, while others offer a variety of ports for connecting a Chromecast or your laptop.
The GooDee G500 Projector plays bright and loud HD video on screens as large as 200 inches, and has plenty of ports for connecting devices. And, if you’ve got a few extra bucks to spare, we recommend the Anker Nebula Capsule Projector, which has better and brighter picture quality. It has 360-degree speakers so everyone can hear the movie no matter where they sit. It also runs Android 7.1 for easy connection to your favorite streaming service, and can project to screens up to 100 inches.
A Better Projector Upgrade
The (Kinda) Big Screen
Once you’ve chosen your projector, you’ll need to find an outdoor projector screen. Some screens can be mounted or tied to trees or a fence, while others come with a stand so you can set them up anywhere. You’ll also want to ensure that the outdoor movie screen you pick will be big enough to properly display the movie while being far enough away for comfortable viewing. This 120-inch mountable projection screen is super affordable and can be fastened to virtually any surface with hooks, ropes, or double-sided tape. You can also opt for this 14-foot inflatable projector screen that’s waterproof and perfect for poolside movie viewing.
A Good Film
Movie night won’t get too far without a movie, right? Whether you prefer family-friendly movies or classic horror flicks, make sure that the projector you choose can play the media you want to watch. Some projectors can connect to Netflix or your Plex account via Wi-Fi, while others may require you to physically connect a Chromecast device or Roku Stick, or even a USB thumb drive that you’ve saved a movie file onto. Can’t find anything good to watch? Browse through some free movie options and find something everyone agrees on.
Okay, you could probably find your way to your seat just fine using your phone’s flashlight, but where’s the fun in that? Put up some string lights overhead to light the seating area (for safety and snack visibility, of course) without making things too bright. These beautiful globe string lights can stay outside year-round, and if one bulb happens to go out, the rest keep trucking. You can also opt for placing these solar lanterns around your seating area if you want a cozier vibe.
Backyard movie seats are all about being comfortable, and you’ll probably want something more relaxing than the chairs in your dining room. These folding camp chairs are low profile, and a great way for everyone to get comfy without blocking the screen. Or you can all sit on an indoor-outdoor fleece blanket that’s waterproof and soft, along with some supportive pillows with cozy (but still waterproof) canvas covers.
Better yet, if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you could make this absolutely amazing DIY pallet chair project that’ll be easier on your wallet and last for many movie nights to come.
No Bugs Allowed
If you’re worried about mosquitoes and other flying insects crashing the party, set out these Citronella candles. They come in a pack of six, which is more than enough to protect your entire backyard movie area while you kick back and relax.
Cords and Other Gear
You wouldn’t want technical difficulties to ruin movie night, so take a moment to ensure you’ve got all the cords and accessories needed to make things run smoothly. You might need an extension cord for the lights, a Wi-Fi extender to get a better signal out into your backyard, or an HDMI cord to play a movie off your laptop. You might even need a portable battery pack for your mini projector so it can keep up with any movie marathons you have planned.
Once you’ve got your movie night all set up and ready to go, why stop there? Go above and beyond by adding some fun extras to your backyard theater like snacks and decorations. Dressing the set a bit can make your movie night feel even more exciting, and it’s a great way to make new memories if you’ve got little ones.
Help set the scene for your guests by placing fun movie-themed decor around your seating areas and snack center. Print custom movie tickets to hand out from this movie ticket template, and let guests eat their popcorn out of these adorable movie theater popcorn boxes. Hang up these glitzy movie night decorations all over your backyard, and throw in a fake Hollywood director’s clapboard to announce which movie is playing.
A Concessions Stand
Everyone knows that movie nights are at least 50% about the snacks, so don’t forget about them during yours. Set this adorable hot air popcorn popper next to this drink dispenser and these three-tiered dessert stands so everyone can get fresh popcorn, drinks, and snacks whenever they want. Display all of your goodies on this sturdy 6-foot folding table so everyone can access them.
Your guests will appreciate having a dedicated place to set their snacks and drinks during the movie. These cute low camping tables are perfect for the job, as are these simple wooden serving trays. They also provide a place for you to set up additional speakers and lighting if needed.