How To Host an Outdoor Movie Night

Want to throw a neighborhood party?

Looking for something fun to do on a warm summer evening when your friends come to town, but you don’t feel like getting dressed up and hitting the town?

Run out of ideas for a unique birthday celebration or date night?

Have a new patio and want to use it?

Why not have an outdoor movie night? In this day and age, it’s easier than ever before.

But what will you need?

Group Think

It all begins with a good brainstorming session. What day works best for everyone? Is the whole family invited or is this an adults-only evening? What genre of movie will everyone enjoy? (You may want to narrow it down to two or three movie options and finalize the decision on movie night.) Will you be providing everything—snacks, chairs, blankets, in the event that the evening turns cool—or will it be more of a BYOS (bring your own stuff) event?

Note: If your neighbors are close enough to be affected by your gathering, it would go a long way to keeping the peace if you loop them into your plans and work out something that is acceptable for everyone. They’ll likely appreciate that you discussed it with them.

A Good-Sized Yard

What You Need to Host a Outdoor Movie Night

While you’re likely familiar with the scene where a couple is snuggled up in a convertible, watching an old movie on a barn wall (either in a romantic movie or a horror film), that’s probably not your situation. Almost any large backyard can be transformed into an outdoor theater if you have the right tech. However, if you do have a barn wall that is suitable for use as a movie screen—and the right tech, go for it! (If you don’t own all the items you need, you may want to consider borrowing or renting them.)

Something to Serve as a Screen

While there are blow-up screens available (usually much easier to come across than an old barn or a guest house), the cover from your pergola can work quite nicely. Though more readily available, large white sheets aren’t your best option. Any light is bound to shine through from the other side. Plus, as soon as a breeze comes up …

A Projector

True, you won’t have to mount two large metal spools on the projector and thread the film through the gate (the portion of an old school projector that holds the film flat), you will need a projector—just a far more contemporary model.

A Streaming Device

What You Need to Host Outdoor Movie Night

One of the most popular is Apple TV. However, if you’re looking for an alternative, Android Central suggests Chromecast with Google TV, the Roku Express 4K+ Box, the Roku Streaming Stick+, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, or Amazon Fire TV Cube. Check the availability and specifications that best suit your needs.

Extension Cord(s)

If you’re using an extension cord, which is almost guaranteed, it’s ideal to use one designed for use outside. Water and electricity aren’t compatible, and cords designed for outdoor use will protect against your cord shorting out, your electronics getting damaged, and you or one of your guests getting a shock—except the kind that comes from the aforementioned horror movie.

Devices that can communicate via Bluetooth technology will minimize the number of cords and cables you’ll need.


External speakers that you can position strategically for the best sound are a big plus. Twenty-first century technology means you can purchase relatively small speakers that produce high quality sound. Like any electronic device, you get what you pay for. While theater-quality surround sound may not be what you’re going for, you won’t want the sound to be so poor that it’s difficult to make out what’s being said.

Comfortable Chairs

Whether you’re providing chairs for everyone or just yourself (and your family), keep in mind that not all outdoor furniture is comfortable for extended periods. While throwing a blanket on the ground may seem like a good idea, as the evening gets cooler and the grass gets damp, a picnic-style movie night may not seem like such a good idea.


Snacks For Outdoor Movie Night

You may want to start the evening with a barbecue or a light buffet meal. If you want to maintain the outdoor theater theme, you could recreate the snack bar at your local movie theater: popcorn, bags of potato chips and candy, chocolate bars, soda, and if you want to go all out, you could prepare nachos with cheese and salsa as well as hotdogs. But even if you choose a more casual get-together, you’ll want to provide chilled beverages and a variety of munchies.

Non-Toxic Insect Repellent

Dusk is a great time to gather for an outdoor movie night. However, that’s when the biting insects come out. Rather than burning toxic repellent to keep the bugs away, you may want to consider non-toxic options. It will make for a much more enjoyable evening—and serves as a much healthier alternative. For more information, you may want to check out this article on The Lessen website: 

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A Final Note

It’s important to do a trial run before your guests arrive. It’s disappointing, to say the least, to discover something isn’t working and you don’t have the means to fix it after your guests arrive.

So, set up your outdoor theater, choose your favorite movie, gather your friends—and your snacks, get comfortable, and enjoy the show.

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