Simple backyard movie how-tos and tips to make it extra fun

Copyright National Lilac Publishing, LLC

Backyard movies were already making a comeback before the COVID-19 event. But during quarantine that extended into warmer months, backyard movies for families, and even drive-in movies where viewers stayed inside their cars enjoyed a surge of popularity. And once neighbors and extended family and friends could join backyard gatherings again, they remain popular.

A backyard movie doesn’t have to mean expensive outdoor flatscreens. With a movie projector rental, you’ll be watching great shows out under the stars in no time. With movie rentals online, local DVD movie rentals, or even free DVD movies from your public library, you’ll find many off-the-radar shows to choose from.

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Setting up a “drive-in theater” in your own backyard is a great night time outdoor activity for families or groups of grown-up friends. Here's how:

First, you’ll need a screen. There are many make-shift backyard movie screen inventions, but the all time favorite of many is a white, flat king sized bed sheet. You may even find one second-hand. Just look the whole thing over before buying for rips or stains.

Other types of material besides sheets that offer dark backing and a specific reflectiveness, though, can enhance the viewing. And there is even projector screen paint that can be painted onto large primed pieces of wood. Hunt around online for ideas on DIY projector screens.

Second, mount the screen. Find a large area to mount the outdoor movie screen where street and house lights won’t disrupt the projected movie, and your family can sit far enough away to enjoy the show. The side of a house, a garage, or even suspending the sheet from a clothesline or between trees can work on a still night. If approved of by the house owner, you can use removable tacks to mount the sheet to an outdoor wall, or staple the sheet to a wooden strip with drilled holes, and mount the wooden strip onto the wall.

Now you need a projector. You’ll most likely use one of two popular choices if you don’t have your own or one you can borrow. Either look for a movie projector rental with built-in DVD and sound capabilities for DVD movie rentals. Or, use a computer projector rental if you’ll be downloading movie rentals online onto your laptop. Average movie projector rental price was around $50 at this writing.

For seating, lay water resistant open sleeping bags topped with big, older cushions on the ground in front for younger kids. Set up lawn chairs behind them for older kids and adult seating. Have a clean (not smelly) trash can nearby and a full napkin holder nearby during the show.

How to make it extra fun: Choose a great movie for all ages.

Regular DVD movie rentals or movie rentals online offer everything from Sci-Fi B movies to cartoon classics adults haven’t seen in years, and kids today have never seen. You may find DVD movies through your local library that you can't find anywhere else, not even online.

Serve classic drive-in snacks, but make them healthy and/or artisan if that would please your crowd. Popcorn with sea salt and organic butter, sparkling fruit drinks or local artisan soda pops served with straws, homemade root beer, organic fair trade chocolates, and hot dogs with wholesome ingredients from the health food store. You could even consider making your own homemade pop or root beer with scores of recipes online. For root beer, unless you've made it before, you'd no doubt choose the type where you make a root beer syrup over the stove that's added to seltzer, rather than the longer process of fermenting the root beer. 

If kids are involved, include them in the creation process when possible. From hanging the backyard movie screen to making popcorn, group participation is what makes the backyard movie a satisfyingly bonding experience, and allows kids to take part in contributing to the enjoyment of others.

Trouble shoot ahead of time. Some movie projectors may have trouble with the sound when trying to play some of the very old classics. You may want to run the extension cord and test run the movie a night or two before the actual backyard movie show time. On rare occasion, a purchased movie is flawed, or a DVD checked out from the library has finally become scratched or too old to play properly. Even if your rehearsal runs smoothly, you may want to have a back up movie or two just in case.


(And stay warm each time you put on a backyard movie with this home theater fleece blanket customized with your own family's name or other text. Through our Zazzle account.)

You may also be interested in our articles on Backyard Camping

and on turning modern audio story streaming into something as fun as old fashioned radio show gatherings.)

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