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How to Host a Backyard Movie Night

Prep the Backyard
A man raking leaves in a backyard.

Choose a day when the weather is clear and there’s very little chance of rain. In the afternoon, take some time to tidy your lawn and get the space ready for outdoor entertaining. This might include scooping up pet waste, clearing out large branches and debris or raking up leaves. If you need to mow the grass, plan to do this the day before so fresh clippings, pollen and other allergens aren’t in the air triggering your guests’ allergies.

Once the backyard is tidy, clear the space to make room for your cinema station. Remove items like garden gnomes, planters, portable fire pits, grills and the like. Also, make sure to check your yard for large rocks, sprinkler heads and other hidden trip hazards. 

If you're hosting the movie night for a birthday party or other occasion, now's the time to set up any banners, balloons, streamers and other decorations. 

Set Up the Movie Screen
A DIY movie screen in a backyard.

When the space is clear, thoughtfully add your movie night party essentials. Decide where you’d like to project the movie. A large, blank wall will work best, and lighter surfaces make for clearer projections. If you don’t have a clear space, hang a thick, beige or cream-colored canvas drop cloth against the siding of your home. 

Set your projector on a flat surface and test the positioning by playing a few minutes of the movie before guests arrive. Most projectors require an electrical outlet, so use an extension cord to route the power plug inside your home if there's no outdoor outlet available. For projectors that connect via WiFi, temporarily move your modem closer to your backyard movie theater to make sure the signal is strong enough.

Tip: Some Bluetooth-enabled projectors can connect to wireless speakers for a surround sound experience.

Add Seating and Layer the Decor
Chairs arranged in front of a movie screen in a backyard

After the screen is ready, arrange your lounge chairs and patio furniture so everyone will be able to see the picture. This is also a great time to reposition the larger accessories you moved out of the way earlier, like patio heaters and fire pits. If the weather is cooler, turn these on so everyone stays warm. Keep in mind that even during the summer, the temperature can drop throughout the evening.

Pile on the rugs, poufs, pillows and blankets. These extras add to the visual appeal of your space and offer more places to lounge – perfect for kids and pets! Choose woven outdoor rugs and textiles that are made to withstand the elements and are still comfortable to lay on.

Add the Final Touches
Candles on a wood table in a backyard.

Complete your DIY outdoor movie theater with concession options. A portable popcorn maker, a beverage station with everyone’s favorite drink options and a snack bar with chips and candy will keep the party going. Remember to also set out cloth napkins, hand sanitizer and a trash can to make cleaning up the snacks and drinks easier at the end of the night.

Finish setting the atmosphere by illuminating the yard with some outdoor string lights and hanging lanterns. Consider lighting citronella candles and torches to help keep the mosquitoes and other summer bugs at bay.