How to host an outdoor movie party — treat the neighborhood to a showing of The Brave Little Toaster

Guestpost by Colleen on Jul 18th

Backyard Movie Theatre

Photo by Jason Gessner. Used under Creative Commons license.


What could be better on a summer night than your yard, some friends, and a good movie? Here's how to plan an outdoor film screening of your very own; it's easier than you might think. This could also be a fun and low-cost kids' birthday party or family event.

Technology

You'll need:

  • an LCD projector
  • a laptop or DVD player
  • speakers
  • a screen

If you don't have a projector, your school or workplace may have one available for loan. Rentals are also available from places that provide event technology.

If you don't want to borrow or rent a screen, another option is to project on to a white sheet or light-colored and relatively smooth wall.

Hooking up all of those components is quite easy; just make sure to test the setup in advance. Also be sure to use a sturdy table and keep cords out of high-traffic areas. You'd hate to have someone trip in the dark and damage the equipment.

Seating

Seating can include blankets, lawn chairs, and even air mattresses (we used one as a "couch" and it was really comfortable). Invite your guests to bring their favorite blanket or chair if you don't have enough. Our party was on a hot humid night, so I caught myself thinking about how awesome it would be to float around in a pool or even dip my feet in a kiddie pool.

Food

Popcorn Cupcakes

Photo by Janet. Used under Creative Commons license.

We kept our menu simple, but there are endless opportunities for theme menus if you're so inclined. You could serve classic movie foods like popcorn, [or popcorn cupcakes, like those above? -Cat] candy, nachos, and soft pretzels, or you could have food that corresponds to your movie choice.

Speaking of…

Movie

We all know that the movie is rather secondary to socializing, eating, drinking, and enjoying the summer evening. Both visual and sound quality will be compromised by passing traffic, streetlights, etc. so pick a feature film that's fun and easy to follow. This is not the time for deep films and definitely not subtitles.

We screened Fantastic Mr. Fox, which met all of the above criteria and had the added bonus of being family-friendly. That wasn't necessary for our guests, but was nice for the next-door neighbors with open windows. If you, like us, have close neighbors, keep the volume reasonable and start the movie as soon as it gets dark so it doesn't run too late.

The scene

Include lots of space for seating in front of the screen. You can light a bonfire or set out lawn games, but give some distance between them and the viewing area. Lighting should be kept dim so it's easier to see the film. Make sure it's easy for people to find the food and the way to the restroom in the dark without running into the equipment or stepping on other moviegoers.

Our outdoor movie was simple, but a lot of fun for the hosts and audience alike. We had a good crowd and many who couldn't make it asked us to do it again. Before summer is over we are definitely planning an encore event. I hope you can enjoy one, too!