Two girls sit outside on a blanket watching a movie projected on a hanging sheet
(Image credit: Tgordievskaya)

What could be more fun than a backyard movie night on a beautiful summer evening? With some simple DIY backyard movie night ideas, you can host an intimate family night or get the whole gang together for a screening. 

Backyard Movie Theater Ideas

Before you dig in and build your garden theater, take inspiration for your next backyard outdoor movie night: 

  • Build community by inviting neighbors over for a viewing. You could make it an ongoing event with a summer movie series. Ask neighbors to bring popcorn and other snacks to share. 
  • Have a late night picnic date in front of the big screen.
  • Take family dinner outside for the night with a movie and a meal. 
  • Screen the film version of a book you read for your next book club’s meeting. 
  • Entertain your kids’ friends with a movie night, and don’t forget to invite their parents. 

Get Your Tech Gear Together

Now you have the idea, but you need to put it all together. Most importantly, you need some devices and electricity: 

  • Projector. You’ll find a lot of projectors on the market, and some are inexpensive. Spend a little more to get a high-quality device that will be bright and clear enough for outdoor viewing. Some even come with built-in streaming apps. 
  • Movies. You can bring a DVD player outdoors, but most projectors come with a USB port. All you need to get movies and TV is a streaming stick to plug into it. 
  • Speakers. Before inviting people over for a movie, check the sound. Most projector speakers will be inadequate, so set up a couple of additional speakers that you can connect directly to the projector. If you have wireless speakers, look for a projector with built-in Bluetooth connectivity. 

How to Make an Outdoor Movie Screen

Save money by skipping the pricey collapsible projector screen. Making your own isn’t difficult or expensive. If you have a white, solid wall, like on the side of a garage, you can use that. 

If your walls don’t work, a plain white bedsheet will do. To make a sheet work, it should be ironed flat and stretched as tautly as possible. You can attach it to a frame, stretching it like a canvas, or tie the four corners to a fence or trees. 

Don’t Forget the Extras

Above are the musts, but to make movie night a true success, you also need the extras for comfort. You can ask friends to bring over camp chairs for seating or make it a picnic-like affair and spread out blankets and pillows. 

Serve drinks and snacks for a real movie theater experience. Since you’re outside, you also don’t want to forget the bug spray and citronella candles.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.