There’s nothing quite like watching a movie outside in your own backyard. Whether you miss going to the movie theater or you’re feeling nostalgic for retro drive-ins, you’ll love taking family movie night outside as the weather gets warmer. And DIY backyard movie theaters are actually pretty easy to set up yourself. You can do the entire thing in about 30 minutes if you have the right equipment (though keep in mind that a permanent installation will require a bit more work). “All you need is a portable projector to turn your own backyard into an outdoor cinema—any backdrop works in the dark… a kid’s tent, hanging a sheet, the wall, or even the ceiling of an overhang, says style and parenting influencer Alicia Lund. Ahead, learn how to ready your yard for movie night in just a few simple steps and watch Lund transform her own backyard into a magical outdoor theater to see how it’s done.
What You’ll Need
Sheet or portable screen
A screen will inherently have less wrinkles in it than a sheet, which is optimal for clear movie-watching. But if you do use a sheet, make sure you pull it super taut when you secure it to either a stand or a vertical flat surface.
You can buy projectors and screens as a pair for what is supposedly optimal pixel quality, but you only really need to do that for a permanent installation or more serious viewing. Otherwise, you just need a good, reliable projector that you can also use indoors. The one Lund used in this set-up is the Cinemood 360, which is great for families since it has built-in access to interactive and educational content for kids (along with all the go-to streaming services, too.)
Whether you already have an outdoor speaker system set up or you just want to wing it with a portable bluetooth audio, make sure the speakers are loud enough to compete with the outdoor elements like wind.
How to Set It Up
Pick a Location
You could set up a portable screen or sheet in the front or backyard with a stand (many come with them) or against the exterior wall of the home. If you don’t have any yard space, try it in the driveway against your garage door, or strung up between two trees. You could also watch from the pool or hot tub if you have one.
Prep the Sound System
If you don’t already have an outdoor space equipped with speakers, invest in a set of portable speakers that fill the entire area with sound. Harman Kardon has some excellent options.
Get Ready to Stream
You’ll also want to prop your projector up on a little side table or stool if it doesn’t come with a stand. In order to actually watch a movie, you could connect your projector to your Apple TV or hook it up to a Fire Stick, an Amazon Alexa-equipped remote and media streamer.
Be a Good Neighbor
If you live in a super populated area, make sure you aren’t blasting into the wee hours of the morning. And of course, practice crowd control.
Give It a Stylish Spin
Style your outdoor theater with Pendleton blankets and piles of outdoor cushions to give it a retro camp look and feel. Bring out the wine chillers and snacks and hurricane candles for a romantic ambiance. Hanging string lights from a pagoda or trees is also a good call. Just bring any non-waterproof decor inside at the end of the movie, in case it rains.