If you’ve been scrambling for ideas to keep the kids entertained at home, creating your own outdoor movie theater is a guaranteed way to bring the excitement back to backyard life this summer. What’s better than sitting out under the stars to watch the latest feature flick? It’s like having your own personal drive-in movie theater—minus the driving–and well, when you can’t get to the movie theater, it’s time to bring the theater to you. (If there’s anything moms know how to do it’s improvise, right?)
Outdoor movies have always been a fun summer evening activity but these days, a backyard movie theater feels more like a necessity than a novelty. And now with the fall season and cooler weather fast approaching, the last thing you want to do right now is spend more time indoors. So why not bust out that patio heater and let the outdoor movie nights keep on rollin’. That said, you don’t have to be a Pinterest mom to make the magic happen. Of course, you are free to really theme it up and get crazy–er, crafty–with the decor details, but if your skillset isn’t quite on the Martha Stewart level, there’s no need to worry. You can still easily put together an at-home outdoor movie theater the whole family will love. In fact, with all the movie-night supplies available online now—think everything from projectors to reusable popcorn containers—it might be easier than ever. Bonus: Your at-home movie theater doesn’t come with the overpriced concession-stand snacks or require face masks and there’s no searching for a seat while stepping over strangers in the dark.
Not sure how to get your cineplex started? No problem. To help you create a five star-worthy outdoor movie theater, we’ve rounded up all the must-haves to shop ahead. All that’s left to do is agree on which family flick to watch (sorry, you’re on your own there).
Outdoor Movie Theater Tech Products
Of all the supplies you’ll need to create a outdoor movie theater, a projector is undoubtedly the most important–followed by the movie screen! This high resolution LED projector comes with a 100 inch portable projector screen, remote control, and, thanks to an AV/USB/SD/HDMI/VGA/Headphone plug, it can play media via everything including PCs and MACs, DVD players, video game consoles, TV “sticks,” and even your mobile device. Whew!
It’s no wonder this pick has an Amazon rating of 4.6 out of 5, out of over 4,500 reviews. Customers love it for family movie nights, offering up raves like “I’ve had this projector for about a week, so far it is AWESOME! We’ve had movie night in the backyard two nights in a row… Great picture and easy to use.” Many are impressed at this projector’s diminutive size, too. “We were pleasantly surprised by how great this little projector worked,” wrote one reviewer, “The picture was a great quality and we used the screen that came with it. I am looking forward to our next driveway movie night!”
If you’re looking to add that surround-sound vibe to your backyard movie theater (very drive-in movie theater like), these nifty speakers do the trick without costing a fortune. Made to last under all weather conditions, they come in black or white and have an angled design to fit seamlessly into corners of outdoor walls, come with swiveling mounting brackets, and deliver sound to even larger outdoor spaces (just be mindful of the neighbors!). According to reviews, they’re built to last and get the job done. “They all still sound like the day that I bought them. Super solid product at a great price,” wrote one. So said another, “These speakers were purchased to be used as part of an outdoor movie theater in our backyard. No theater attendance during COVID-19, so we built our own. Great little speakers. Enjoy!”
Backyard Movie Theater Seating
Seating for your backyard movie night can be varied: Maybe the kids get to sit on the ground with sleeping bags and outdoor pillows, while the grown-ups get these comfy reclining zero gravity chairs (with cup holders for cocktails, obvi). For under $150, you can score a set of these adjustable, lightweight chairs for your outdooor movie theater, each of which features a removable padded headrest, as well as a detachable tray to hold your drinks, your phone, and even a tablet. Out of over 11,700 reviews (!), 83% give these lounge chairs a score of 4 or above, and many have said they plan to purchase additional sets. “Love, love, love these loungers,” wrote one, “We’re all home all the time now, right? Everyone wants to hang out in the yard and fights to get in one of these loungers. I might get two more!” Another gushed, “These are the best chairs. We actually ordered another set, they are so comfortable and so easy to use.”
For kids, sleeping bags add to the outdoor fun in a big way. Avoid worrying about spills by giving them comfy, water-resistant, blankets/bags to sprawl out on while they take in the show, like this pick from Revalcamp that’s available in a dozen colors. Lightweight, packable, machine washable, and roomy at 30 x 71 inches, it has a double-sided anti-snag zipper and can be zipped to another sleeping bag to make it double in size! What’s more: The brand donates sleeping bags every month to community organizations around the country (you love to see it!). This sleeping bag boasts over 3,900 positive reviews on Amazon, including one customer who “Purchased 11 of these for my son’s Super Mario themed birthday celebration and the kids loved them! They were comfy and the little bags they come with are great!” Another noted it’s a “Very nice compact sleeping bag perfect for summer camping.” Party or no, this affordable option is an outdoor movie theater must-have!
No movie night is complete without some comfy pillows to snuggle up with. These 17×17 inch colorful accent pillows come in a multiple of colors and patterns that are guaranteed to brighten up your outdoor seating. Made of water and UV resistant polyester fabric, the covers are quick and easy to clean when sticky fingers inevitably come in contact with them. With a 4.8 overall rating you can’t go wrong with adding these to your outdoor space. One reviewer wrote, “The pillows are perfect in my blue adirondack chairs. Good quality and I usually bring them in when it rains but was not home when it did rain and they seem to be waterproof. Very pleased.”
Outdoor Movie Theater Snacks and Supplies
Movie night beverages and other snacks (healthy fruit, maybe?) will stay cool inside this picnic cooler that holds up to 16 cans. It’s got a removable hard plastic liner inside, an adjustable shoulder strap for easy portability, a back mesh pocket for extra necessities, a front zip pocket, and bungees on the lid to hold supplies like napkins or reading material (to keep you entertained while the kids watch Trolls World Tour for the 15th time). Super functional at a great price, this handy cooler is essential not only for your outdoor movie theater, but for virtually any kind of outdoor fun. From one of the most trusted camping gear brands out there, Coleman’s picnic cooler is unsurprisingly a hit with customers who offer rave reviews including, “I love it! Great size for a great price” and “Best picnic/portable cooler. Doesn’t leak, holds enough, keeps it chilled. A good buy all around! Take to the beach all the time!”
Give your outdoor movie theater an authentic vibe with retro plastic popcorn containers. Your kids will feel like they’re actually at the movies (remember places?) and since these buckets are reusable and washable, you won’t be contributing to single-use waste. Fun and earth-friendly? Yes, please. Approximately 7.25 inches by 7.35 inches, these containers come in packs of three or six and have earned a rating of 4.7 out of 450 Amazon reviews. What are moviegoers saying? “Well worth it,” wrote one, “Kids use for every movie night.” Another raved, “This is the cutest popcorn bucket in the world…it makes Netflix 100x more official and a [memorable] family movie night! 🙂 Extremely happy and satisfied and highly recommend.” The movie theater experience without the concession stand price tag? That’s pretty hard to beat.
An outdoor movie theater that doesn’t serve candy? Hell to the no. Stocking your backyard concession stand with sugary treats is essential for balancing the salty popcorn and keeping all of your customers satisfied! This 30-count assortment from Mars Candy includes eight Snickers bars, 6 bags of M&Ms, three 3 Musketeers bars, four bags of Skittles, and three packs of Starburst. Basically, if anyone goes hungry on movie night, it’s their own damn fault. This variety pack is great if you’ve got a bigger fam and like to make sure your pantry is always prepared, or if your kiddos are having friends over, which is bound to happen eventually, right? Right. Either way, movie night–and the warm-weather season, in general–is looking pretty freakin sweet.
Outdoor Movie Theater Extras
String lights = extra ambiance for your outdoor space, whether it’s movie night or not. Each of these 25-foot black rubberized cords features 25 clear globe bulbs, built-in clips for hanging, and is weather- and wind-resistant. They’re also dimmable so you can find your just-right light. What are customers loving about these? Well, almost everything. “These lights are easy to install. The light is bright without being blinding. The bulbs are made of plastic so they won’t break easily or shatter. Full round cord with an extension plug on the end so you can additional strings,” one reviewer wrote. Hang these now to amp up your backyard movie theater, keep ’em up all year long? Sounds good to us.
No one invites mosquitoes to backyard movie night but those little unwanted guests always seem to find a way, so it’s a good idea to keep some bug repellant on hand. This is especially true if you or your kids tend to double as mosquito magnets every year once the warm weather arrives (raises hand). To avoid ending up covered in welts by the time the show is over, stock up on this DEET-free formula from Repel. Made with lemon eucalyptus oil, it will keep mosquitoes at bay for up to six hours without feeling sticky or greasy. “Works great on me and I’m like a mosquito magnet,” wrote one reviewer. “This stuff works fantastic. It lasts for hours and no chemical smell. It has a definitely lemon smell but not like furniture polish lemon smell. No bites and I was out for about 3 hours. Bugs didn’t bug me at all and no deet. Would need to reapply if your getting in an out of the water just keep that in mind. Mosquitoes LOVE me so if it works on me it should work on anyone.” Get ready to enjoy your outdoor movie theater, bite-free.