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An outdoor movie theater is a great way to entertain yourself in these modern times. Whether you miss going to the movie theaters or your kids want to see their favorite movie characters on a large screen, a backyard movie theater can be a great alternative at your home. An outdoor cinema allows you to spend a great night with your family, friends, and loved ones. It is easy to set up a backyard movie theater for an entertaining evening. All you need is an hour or two to get everything in order, along with a projector and a few other items.
What You’ll Need for a Backyard Movie Theater?
Here are a few things that you will require for a DIY outdoor movie theater. You will already have most of these at your home.
A Movie Projector – A movie projector is the most essential thing that you will need to build an outdoor cinema. It not only projects a larger screen for a cinematic experience but is easier to carry and install as compared to an LCD TV. You don’t have to buy a backyard projector separately and can use the one that you already have at home.
If you do want to purchase a dedicated projector to build an outdoor theater, then consider an affordable offering. The magic of a backyard movie theater is in the experience and not the quality of the projector. A 720p projector is adequate for a backyard and available for around three hundred bucks from brands like Optoma, BenQ, and Viewsonic. If you need a 1080p outdoor theater projector, then you will find decent models in the $400 to $500 range. There are some portable projectors also available from the likes of Anker and JMGO that come with built-in batteries. Do keep in mind that portable models have a lower brightness rating.
A Portable Screen – Along with a projector, you may need a portable screen to build an outdoor theater. You can buy a dedicated projector screen designed for outdoor use. Most of them have a sturdy frame that can be disassembled for storage. They may either have an H-shaped frame base or pointed stakes that go into the ground for keeping them stable. Projector screens for an outdoor cinema are available in multiple sizes ranging from 60” to 200”. You may choose one according to your requirements and the space available.
There are many makeshift alternatives to a portable screen. You can project the imagery on a wall of your house. It must be smooth and have a uniform white paint coat for a pleasant viewing experience. However, if the wall is textured or uneven, then it may become a distraction for the audience. A colored wall will alter the colors of the projected imagery as well.
Another cheap option for an outdoor movie theater is using a white sheet as a projector screen. It will have a smoother texture as compared to a wall, and you also have the freedom to choose a suitable color (off white or slightly grey is best). The main issues with using a sheet as a projector screen for outdoor cinemas are wrinkling and movement due to wind. You can address the same by pulling the screen as taught as possible. It can be bound to a homemade frame or tied using a rope to keep it wrinkle-free.
Media Streaming Device – Unless you have a smart projector, you will need a media streaming device to set up a backyard movie theater. You can either play movies from a storage media like USB drives or stream them from the Internet using devices like Amazon Firestick, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, or Roku Express. Media streaming devices connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network and allow you to access services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Disney Plus. You can enjoy your favorite movies on your personal outdoor cinema. The other options are connecting a DVD player to the projector or loading the media files on a USB drive. But it will increase the time and effort required to build an outdoor theater. There are some smart projectors with built-in Wi-Fi capability. They can connect to your home’s wireless network and allow you to stream movies from the Internet using a browser or an app. You won’t need a media streaming device or USB drive if you have a smart projector.
Speakers – Most home theater projectors either don’t have speakers or their volume is too low. Therefore, you may need to add external speakers when you set up a backyard movie theater. You don’t have to move your home theater speakers outside. Most outdoor theater projectors have an aux port, while some of them may support Bluetooth audio transmission. You can consider a simple stereo speaker or opt for a portable speaker/soundbar. Portable speakers may also have a built-in battery, which simplifies the setup process. If you are hosting a movie night at your outdoor theater, make sure that the volume of the speakers is reasonable. It should not cause inconvenience to your neighbors.
Outdoor Chairs – A DIY outdoor movie theater, like all cinemas, will need a sitting arrangement. You can add chairs depending on the number of people that will be present. Foldable chairs are easy to carry inside and outside. If you are looking for a more relaxed experience, you can consider outdoor sling chairs. People who prefer to lie down or will be binge-watching a whole season of their favorite show can use mattresses and pillows to build an outdoor theater.
A Throw Blanket – The weather in some areas can get chilly during the evening and at night. You or your family may feel cold when watching movies at the outdoor theater. Having a few throw blankets at hand can be beneficial if the temperature drops. It will keep kids and adults cozy. You won’t have to go inside for blankets in the middle of the movie. While you can light a bonfire, it may not be needed in mildly cold weather. Therefore, keep a few blankets at your backyard movie theater if it gets chilly during the night.
String Lights – If you want to make your movie night special or are planning a date, then consider adding some additional decorations when you set up a backyard movie theater. String lights are a great option to enhance the ambiance of your DIY outdoor movie theater. It not only adds to the appeal of the theater but also provides illumination. Just make sure to hang them at a spot that does not affect the viewing experience of the user. Ideal positions can be behind the seating arrangement or towards the left or right side of the outdoor cinema.
Popcorn Bowl – A movie, whether at a multiplex or a backyard movie theater, is incomplete without popcorn. It gives you something to munch on while being healthy. Everyone from kids to adults loves it. You can prepare popcorn quickly, which can be beneficial when hosting a large group of people. If there are going to be children at the outdoor cinema, they are bound to get hungry. A large bowl of popcorn will keep everyone satiated. You can even buy an outdoor corn popper for making popcorn on the spot.
A Beverage Tub – Homeowners may also need to serve some beverages if they are hosting a movie night at their DIY outdoor movie theater. A beverage tub can keep the drinks cool and chilled, eliminating the need to make trips to your refrigerator or chiller repeatedly. Therefore, consider a beverage tub if you want to keep soda or other drinks at hand.
Other items – You may need a few miscellaneous items to set up a backyard movie theater. An electric extension board may be required for powering the projector and other equipment like speakers. A table may also be needed to place the projector. Couples who are planning a romantic evening can add some scented candles as well. If there is tall grass in your backyard, a mosquito repellent may come in handy.
How to DIY an Outdoor Movie Theater In Under Two Hours?
Once you have all the required things, you can start to build your DIY outdoor movie theater.
Pick a Place – The first step is to pick a place in your yard for setting up an outdoor cinema. There are two primary considerations when choosing an appropriate space – where will you place the screen and where will the chairs go. If you plan to use a wall as a projection screen, then the options available may be somewhat limited. However, if you have a portable projector screen, it may be easier to set up a backyard movie theater. Make sure that the space you choose can accommodate everyone.
Install the Screen – Once you have picked a place, install the screen for your outdoor movie theater. If you have a framed projector screen, then assemble it. For makeshift screens, string them to trees or other objects using ropes so that they are free from wrinkles. The screen should be clearly visible to everyone.
Set up the Projector and Speakers – The next step to set up a backyard movie theater is to place the projector. If the projector is lower than the screen, then elevate it using a table. You will have to align it so that the imagery fits within the boundaries of the projector screen. To do the same, you will need to plug it in. If there is no power socket available near the projector, you may require an extension board. You may also need the extension for powering the speakers. Switch on the projector and align the imagery. Use lens shift, lens zoom, or keystone correction as required. It does not have to be perfect as your backyard movie theater is a temporary setup. Connect the speakers to the projector and set their volume.
Arrange the Chairs – Once you have set up the projector and speakers, it is time to get the seating arrangement in place. You can go for foldable chairs, sling chairs, recliners, or even consider mattresses and pillows for a more comfortable experience. If there will be kids or children, having a place to lie down can be beneficial as they can get tired quickly. Make sure that you have adequate seating to accommodate everyone when you build an outdoor theater. It is always wise to have extra seats in case more than expected people show up.
Add Decorations – If you want to make the movie night special, you can add decorations to enhance the ambiance of your DIY outdoor movie theater. Scented candles, string lights, and lamps can spice up your outdoor cinema. They can be great for a date night, and even kids find them attractive. Just ensure that the decorations do not distract from the movie-watching experience.
The last step in the DIY outdoor movie theater process is to make sure everything works. Connect your projector to the Wi-Fi network and log into the streaming services. If you are going to use a USB drive, load all the movies or videos into it. Microwave the popcorn, add beverages and ice to the bucket, and get ready for an entertaining night.