Looking for some creative ways to occupy your family while practicing social distancing? This summer, swap out your usual Netflix on the couch for something way more exciting: an outdoor movie night! This activity is a great alternative to an indoor movie theater, which you may be forgoing for the immediate future. If you feel comfortable, consider inviting some friends to join you and enjoy a movie in the fresh air!
We’ve rounded up plenty of inspiration for your next outdoor cinematic soirée, from decor ideas to irresistible snack options.
We would argue this choice is the most important part of the process. Obviously, you can’t please everyone, no matter what flick you pick, but you can certainly try to satisfy the masses with a little thought. While picking an age-appropriate movie goes without saying, genre preferences will vary as much as the personalities that filter into your backyard.
First, think about your audience. Are you hosting a man-cave madness event on your lawn? Is it a girls’ night out? Are you inviting your neighbors? If you’re mixing different age groups, then our advice is to go with a comedy—everyone loves a good laugh. Scary movies can be too hard to handle for some, and slow dramas probably won’t go over well with restless kids. Or you could always go with an aviation selection. We talked about our favorites here.
The biggest hurdle when watching a movie in your backyard can be figuring how to display it as largely and clearly as possible. If you want to go the projector route, try looking for a pre-owned model on sites such as Craigslist. Some schools and businesses will even sell their old projectors for affordable prices. If you’d rather not invest in a projector, you can turn your TV toward the window and listen through an open window (or on a Bluetooth-connected speaker), and BOOM! You’ve got an outdoor theater!
If you do decide to invest in a projector, you will need a screen. If you can’t afford a specialized screen, projecting the film onto a hanging white drop cloth or sheet is a more cost-effective option.
There are plenty of great setting ideas online for an outdoor movie night, but we prefer to go the comfy route. Put out a few blankets or have your guests bring picnic blankets and provide outdoor cushions for them to lean against. It’s inexpensive and easy, and we like the “night at the park” atmosphere it creates.
Don’t let the bugs bother you when you are trying to enjoy the movie. Try diffusing citronella with a cordless diffuser. It will help keep the bugs at bay.
Create a fantastic ambiance by hanging some outdoor lights (just plain ol’ Christmas lights will do), using battery-operated candles or lanterns, and sitting around some ferns or other plants to help with atmosphere and define the movie space.
OK, this part may actually the most important part of the planning process. Of course, it wouldn’t be a movie night without popcorn! Try putting out an easy popcorn bar. It’s an inexpensive and fun way to keep the crowd happy. You can provide different flavorings and even candy for those who like to mix it with their popcorn. Keep some bottled drinks in a beverage tub for added charm.
If you are inviting more than family, consider providing some other entertainment. While some of your guests will be transfixed by your movie selection, others may have trouble sitting through it. Provide other forms of entertainment for those who don’t want to sit through the whole movie. Set up yard games like badminton or Frisbee away from the screen so that players won’t get in the way of those who are watching the film.
You may also want to consider doing an Intermission. It might be a nice gesture that allows people to chat, or if you want, you can go all out and put on a live intermission show. Have someone play a song or ask the kids to perform a dance or skit.
No matter what you do, making the most of summer nights with a great outdoor movie event will be sure to become one of your favorite memories. Just remember to have fun!