There’s nothing better than getting comfy, enjoying some fresh popcorn and watching a good movie — except maybe watching it outside with your friends and family. Now, with modern technology, you don’t have to compromise on good quality when hosting an outdoor movie night.
Outdoor movie nights are perfect for any occasion and fun for all ages. Here are some tips for planning your outdoor flick that will have your guests reaching for another fistful of popcorn.
Planning an Outdoor Movie Night
Before hosting your flick, you’ll need to sort out some details about where to have it, when you’ll have it and how you’ll decorate. Make your outdoor movie planning simple, but creative. Making memories with your loved ones is much more important than having all the details in order. To plan a memorable outdoor movie night, you’ll need to consider a few things:
Figure out where you’re going to host your outdoor movie night. When choosing a location for your event, consider the following:
- What time is the sunset that day?
- Is there enough parking?
- Is it easily accessible?
- Are there restrooms available throughout the event?
- Does your location provide enough room for all of your guests?
- Do you need staff to serve food at your location?
- Will I need movie licensing and permits?
The type of event you choose will also help determine your movie’s location. Consider having an outdoor movie night with your co-workers. Or, you can have a school movie night with teachers, students and parents for a fun-filled night under the stars. Outdoor movie nights are especially fun in apartment communities for people of all ages.
Pick a Movie
Try to pick something that’s family-friendly and not too loud, so it doesn’t disturb the neighbors. Reduce conflict by deciding on a movie before the event. Choosing a movie before the event also helps you plan the theme of the night.
Choose a movie that everyone will love. Consider your crowd — try finding an old children’s movie from your childhood, so both children and parents can enjoy it.
Follow a Theme
Pick a theme based on the movie you’ve chosen or the time of year you’re having the event. Consider one of these themes for your outdoor movie night:
- Underwater theme: For underwater-themed movies, like Finding Nemo or The Little Mermaid, host your outdoor movie night at the swimming pool.
- Humanitarian theme: Give your event a humanitarian theme by showing a movie or documentary about Earth Day — then hold a recycling event.
- Halloween theme: Have a Halloween-themed movie night and show a scary movie. Have a Pumpkin carving contest. Play spooky music as guests arrive and decorate with festive pumpkins and spider webs.
Offer Great Food
Whip up a menu that fits the theme of the movie, and offer a wide selection of drinks, snacks and food. Decide if you only want to serve snacks or dinner as well. When choosing food for the movie night, be sure to pick options that are easily self-served.
For added flair, set up a build-your-own popcorn bar. Include different toppings and provide individual bags for each guest.
Get the Word Out
Create some cute invitations and get the word out about your movie night. Try sending out invitations that look like tickets. If you want to save money and liability for your personal items, ask your guests to bring certain items when you send out the invitations, like:
- Bug spray
- Hooded sweatshirt or jacket
- Long pants, pajamas or change of clothes
- Allergy medication
- Small flashlight
- Sleeping bag and pillow
If you’re hosting a corporate event, promote your outdoor movie night through social media. Place flyers in prominent locations and use your staff newsletter to let everyone know the details.
How Do You Project a Movie Outside?
If you’re planning on setting up a projector and screen yourself, there are a few things you’ll need to do. First, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to play the movie. Use either a DVD or online streaming service on a computer, tablet or DVD player. Then, attach the player to a projector across from a screen. You’ll also need high-quality speakers and lots of extension cords.
Movie projectors can be very expensive, so it’s best to rent or borrow one if you can. Try lending one from your library or renting one from a professional. Pick a projector that’s compatible with your computer, tablet, DVD player and any other electronics. Your projector might have a built-in speaker, but you’ll want to invest in external speakers so everyone can hear the movie. Finally, be sure to test out the equipment before the big night.
Consider whether you want to set up the projector, screen and speakers by yourself or hire an outdoor movie theater rental company. When you hire a professional, they will typically bring the screen, a concert grade sound system and a premium HD projection system. They will also usually send someone to deliver all the equipment, set up the system, and stay for the duration of the event.
How will you decorate your outdoor movie night? Try using everyday items to add to the ambiance. Although you should be creative with your decorations, you should also fit the theme or a color palette for consistency.
Consider setting up a red carpet, so your guests feel like they’re attending a fancy Hollywood premiere. Finally, make sure you have a decorative sign to let people know where to go.
DIY Screens vs. Renting a Screen
When it comes to outdoor movie screens, you have two options: you can rent one from a professional or try to build one yourself. Each option has its own set of benefits and drawbacks — it all depends on what type of movie night you’re planning:
Using a DIY screen is a great way to save money on your movie night. However, it can add a ton of extra planning and hassle. You’ll have to spend a significant amount of time setting up the screen before the big night and taking it down after everyone has gone home.
First, you’ll need to determine how large you want the screen to be, based on the type of projector you use. If your home has a flat surface — such as a garage, white fence or flat exterior wall — you can project your movie without a screen. If your home has a brick or other type of textured exterior, it would be better to use a portable screen.
Try hanging white sheets to create a DIY screen. However, you’ll need a dark surface behind them — like a dark wall or sheet — to get a good picture quality. Try using clamps, plant hangers or poles to hold up your screen. Another great option for a DIY screen is a canvas painter’s drop cloth.DIY screens tend to sag and blow in the wind, so you’ll want to invest in good material.
Renting a Screen
A borrowed projector and a white sheet against the side of your home is a good affordable option for your movie night. However, the image and sound quality are much better with professional equipment. Plus, when you rent a screen, you won’t need to worry about setting it up or taking it down.
For your corporate event, you could rent LED screens for high-quality viewing at any time of the day. Even if you have a movie in your own backyard, you don’t have to compromise on the value of a high-quality screen. You can rent LED Video Walls, so you can host your movie party during the day or at night.
During the Event
Once you’ve taken the time to plan your outdoor movie night, you can step back and enjoy it. To make sure everyone has the best night possible:
Provide Comfortable Seating
Set the stage for a cozy outdoor movie night with comfortable seating. Warm blankets and pillows can make your guests feel at home, even in the chilly weather. Try using washable pillowcases and blankets outside, especially if you’re throwing a party for kids. If you’re having the movie night on a driveway or parking lot, consider using lawn chairs instead of blankets.
You could also ask your guests to bring their own seating to make the planning easier. Kids could bring their own chairs, and you could have a space dedicated for children, so they snack on their popcorn and enjoy the movie.
Serve Food and Drinks
What type of food will you serve to your guests? You could provide appetizers, a simple self-serve dinner or a simple assortment of snacks to your guests. Let your creative side loose and serve food that fits the theme of the movie night.
You could also set up a self-serve snack bar with popcorn and toppings, as well as popular movie theater candy. You could make your own popcorn or rent a popcorn machine. Consider buying individual bags for each of your guests to collect their popcorn.
To complete your nourishment needs, think about what you will serve to drink. You could create a movie-themed drink or keep it simple with bottled water and soda. If your guest list includes adults and children, consider keeping adult-only and kid-friendly drinks separate. Think about keeping your drinks cold with ice, so they last throughout the night.
Provide Games and Fun
Try to keep the momentum of your party going from start to finish. Before you start the movie, you could play movie trivia or charades while you wait for guests to arrive. You could also have karaoke, video games or a photo booth to make fun memories with your guests.
For a kid’s party, you could make cars out of cardboard boxes to mimic the drive-ins of the 1950s. The children would love decorating the cars and sitting in their new creations with their friends. Think of creative ways to entertain your guests throughout the night to make it a party to remember.
Hire a Host
An enthusiastic host will help keep your guests entertained. You could have an emcee control the flow of your night from the moment your guests arrive. A professional outdoor movie screen rental company may provide you with a host when you rent equipment.
Keep the Bugs Away
Think about the obstacles that typically arise during an outdoor party. In the warm summer months, bugs can distract and can even harm your guests. You can provide bug spray or encourage guests to bring their own. For an eco-friendly option, citronella candles are great for lighting up the night and keeping the bugs away from the fun.
Provide Adequate Lighting
When deciding which type of light to use for the bathroom or snack table, think about using lights that won’t distract your guests from the movie. Try using mini lanterns or tiki lights to help your guests find their way around.
After the Event
The fun can still continue, even after the movie ends. Your guests may want a chance to mingle or grab some more food. Think about how you can entertain your guests until they go home:
- Give out glow sticks: Glow sticks or glow bracelets can help your guests see in the dark. Kids can play glow stick tag and run around to release the energy they’ve built up through the night.
- Offer a sweet midnight snack: For your guests with a sweet tooth, think about serving a midnight snack. You could set up a campfire and make s’mores for a cozy way to end the night. Consider making goodie bags for your guests to take home.
- Hire a professional to tear down the screen: After all the fun is over, it’s time to think about cleaning up all the snacks and movie equipment. Cleaning up your party as soon as possible is a good idea to avoid bugs or theft. A professional movie screen rental company will tear down your screen for you, so you can go straight to bed or finish the night talking with lingering guests.
Find a FunFlicks® Near You!
How do you host a movie night? The team at FunFlicks® can help you with all the details of planning your fun outdoor movie night.
FunFlicks® brings you back to the days when drive-in movies were in every town. We bring back the nostalgia of the 1950s, while also using modern technology to enhance the experience. Browse our website for more information about our products and services.
We host large events like apartment and community outdoor movie nights, company events, school movie nights, drive-in movies and more. We can also host birthday or Halloween outdoor movie nights in your backyard. Contact your local FunFlicks® location for projector and screen rental information.