Outdoor Movie Night Ideas

There’s something nostalgic about sitting outside on a warm evening while a favorite movie plays on the big screen. You can recreate that same scene in your own backyard with only a projector, a sheet or the side of your house, and a streaming media source like a computer or Blu-ray player. The result is a family-friendly environment that doesn't stress out a tight budget—and with a little extra planning and some personal touches, you can make it even more memorable.

Dive-In Movie

If you have a swimming pool in your backyard, select a water-themed movie—ideally with a fish or a mermaid as the lead character—and hold your outdoor movie night poolside. Offer guests ocean-inspired snacks, like gummy fish and chocolate seashells. Set out inner tubes and rafts for guests to relax in and provide a variety of inflatable pool toys to keep the younger movie watchers busy when attention spans wane. An inflatable screen is also appropriate. "They blow up quickly and are much bigger than most other types of outdoor screens," says Kirk Ritari, an installation support specialist with Tampa-based audio/video firm Projector People.

Hash Out a Social Affair

If social networking plays a big part in your everyday life, incorporate it into your outdoor movie night by creating a hashtag—like #JohnsonMovieNight or #MainStreetCinema. Send an electronic invitation clearly featuring the hashtag and add it frequently to your status updates to create buzz. When guests arrive, snap an entry photo and post it to your favorite social network with the hashtag in the caption. Continue snapping and sharing hashtagged shots and encourage guests to do the same. By night's end, you'll have an abundance of photo mementos—and maybe even a new trending topic.

Game Night

Watch a movie based on a video game or one about a video game tournament and then connect your gaming console to your projector and transform movie night into game night. "Kids get a kick out of playing video games outside," says Ritari, "and the graphics are pretty impressive on that size of a screen." If it's age appropriate, offer the same games that were featured in the film or play something that involves as many participants as possible. Provide a copy of the movie as an award for the player with the highest score.

Sing Out Loud

Musicals are always crowd pleasers and they make a great segue into a post-movie karaoke party. When the feature film has ended, pop in a karaoke DVD and have a singing contest. Alternatively, you can stream a karaoke app from your mobile device to the big screen or connect a gaming console loaded up with a microphone and a game that integrates scored singing. Enlist the help of a few guests who are willing to act as judges and then award the winner with a prize worthy of a pop star—like sparkly sunglasses, a feather boa or a sequined glove.

Some Considerations

Projected images offer more richness and contrast when they're not competing with other sources of light, so pick an alternate location if your backyard lies under the shine of a streetlight. Additionally, the projector brightness will play a part in streaming clarity. At minimum, look for a projector that outputs 2,000 lumens, although many HD-enabled screens require at least 3,000 lumens. Don't forget the power strip, an extension cord and a set of external speakers if your projector doesn't include them.

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