Summer Living: How to Throw an Amazing Backyard Movie Night

There's something uniquely romantic about watching a movie outdoors. While drive-in theaters are uncommon these days, you can still experience a movie under the stars by setting up your own outdoor movie theater for a backyard movie night.

We've put together a list of everything you need for an amazing backyard movie night, from the best outdoor projector to the ultimate movie snacks. Once you have everything you need for your outdoor movie night, you'll be all set to make it a regular summer tradition.  

Outdoor Movie Screen

Depending on your yard, how permanent you want it to be, and how much work you want to put in, you have lots of options for setting up a backyard movie screen. If you're not lucky enough to have a clothesline you can sling a sheet over, you’ll probably need a temporary screen.

This 100-inch screen has good reviews and can be either hung against a wall, or you can use the included stand.

This movie screen would be perfect for a backyard movie night.
This 100-Inch 2-in-1 portable projector screen might be perfect for your backyard movie night


Or! This Instructable tutorial looks like an easy, inexpensive way to put together a temporary backyard movie screen in any size you want.

DIY outdoor movie screen
Photo by Instructables member MichaelS779.

If you live in an area with a temperate climate and decide you want to turn your backyard into an extension of your living room, you can build a permanent outdoor theater like this one. The Horticult has detailed plans for building your own. 


Photo by The Horticult

If you're expecting a big crowd (the whole neighborhood?) in a large yard, you may need this 14-foot inflatable movie screen.


inflatable movie screen
Inflatable movie screen from Amazon.


Best Outdoor Projector

Projector prices vary widely, but if you can't borrow one from friends or family, you can buy an inexpensive portable one. Be sure to test your projector and device you'll be playing the movie from ahead of time to make sure that you're not missing any cords or adaptors! 

This outdoor projector has excellent reviews, and is a great value.

According to reviews, this projector might be the best outdoor projector for the price.

Best outdoor projector
This projector is popular on Amazon


Movie-themed invitations are a fun way to help set the mood for your backyard movie night. Canva has a variety of great free invitation templates that you can personalize and print, or email. 

Outdoor movie night invitation
This Canva template is available here

Confetti and Bliss has several free customizable invitations that would be perfect for an outdoor movie night. 

Movie night invitations
Movie night invitations from Confetti and Bliss



Movie Snacks

Popcorn is obviously a necessity for a movie night. Get your guests to bring their favorite flavor of popcorn for a popcorn buffet. If they're stumped for creative flavors, here are 50 popcorn flavor ideas. This rosemary caramel corn would be a delicious addition. 

Rosemary caramel corn
Rosemary caramel corn from Thug Kitchen

Make easy paper cones so guests can take their chosen popcorns back to their seat. 

Popcorn cones
Photo by Melissa Esplin

If you want to get a bit fancy, set up a concession stand with candy and popcorn, complete with mix-ins and flavored salts for the popcorn. For the perfect popcorn salt, toss regular table salt in a food processor, and add dried herbs or spices like garlic powder or chili powder. Here are some flavored popcorn salt recipes to get you started. 

Movie night concession stand
Photo by David Tsay for Parents.

Create mini s'mores stations where guests can roast their own marshmallows over cooking fuel canisters.  

Getting Comfortable

If temperatures are soaring, fill inflatable kiddie pools with water for guests to soak in to help them keep cool. If you're watching an action movie, provide water guns for a water fight during movie shootouts. 

For cooler nights, help guests stay warm with plenty of blankets. 

Stagger chairs and pillows around the screen, and if you're feeling extra ambitious, make some of these simple movie backrests from Amy's Party Ideas.

Backyard movie seats
Photo from Amy's Party Ideas

Make simple tabletop citronella torches to keep mosquitos away from the moviegoers. 

Repel mosquitoes with citronella torches
Photo by Lilies and Loafers.

Ready to make backyard movie nights your newest summer tradition? I know I am!

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