How To Make Your Own Outdoor Movie Theater
With summer approaching quickly, our minds are all turning to activities we can do outside. During the day, the possibilities are endless: there are picnics, zoos, bike rides, hikes, etc.
And if you have a swimming pool or lake within driving distance, you pretty much have every day for the rest of the summer planned! But what about night time? Summer nights can sometimes be difficult to plan an activity for. Because we still want to enjoy the beautiful weather outside, but many times we’re pretty exhausted from a day of running (or swimming) around in the sun.
Well, what about watching a movie? Ok, so of course you just answered, “But it’s summer! I don’t want to spend my summer cooped up in a movie theater! I only have a few months of this beautiful weather!” Let’s take that idea a step further… why not watch a movie outside? Now, if you have an drive-in or outdoor movie venue nearby that’s great. But there are still options if you don’t. You can absolutely build your own outdoor movie theater. This way, you have something to do any time you need a fun activity on a summer night. Turn your house into the new go-to place for all of your friends and family (or just you and the kids)… build your very own outdoor movie theater!
It can be extremely easy and inexpensive to build your own outdoor movie theater. It can be done in very few steps, and you don’t need very many components to make it a successful attraction. As with anything else, there are cheap options, as well as ways to up the wow factor a bit. Let’s explore a few options.
The seating can be done as simply, or as extravagantly, as you like. Something as basic as blankets on the grass could totally be sufficient. Fold-down lawn chairs or camping chairs would also work.
A great option is to purchase comfortable outdoor lawn furniture and have that double as your outdoor theater seating. If you watch the sales, or get them at the end of the season, it is amazing the prices you can find on this type of furniture. Outdoor lawn furniture is sturdy and can stand up to the elements, but it is also comfortable. You can have your furniture set up around each other, the way that you would normally use it, and then move it into rows quickly when you want to watch a movie.
If you really want to up that wow factor, and have it feel more like an actual movie theater, you can create your own outdoor seating that is stadium-style seating. There are two different ways you can do this:
First, and easiest (and less expensive), is to use pallets to create stadium-style seats.
As you can see in the picture, you just take pallets, and stack them on top of each other to create the stadium effect. You can purchase cushions already made, or you can make your own pretty easily. Just make sure you are using heavy duty fabric that is suitable for outdoor use.
If you don’t want to make your own, you can always hire a professional company to come build stadium seating for you. This can be as basic or extravagant as you want. You can do basic stadium-style seating (think seating at a Junior High football field). Or, if you really want to impress, you can build stadium seats that have the fold down style seats you see in movie theaters.
You want to make sure to buy a sturdy projector that can be out in the heat. I recommend having a permanent mount (or even just a table you place it on!) for your projector outside, but keeping the projector inside. For this purpose, a mini projector would be ideal. Mini projectors are lightweight, don’t take up a lot of space, and are generally easy to use. With something that you are going to moving in and out of the house on a regular basis (possibly every day?), it is nice to have something simple and compact.
It can be difficult to find a screen that you can use outdoors. To get a good quality outdoor projector screen you will have to spend a lot of money. And if you purchase an inexpensive “outdoor” screen, it will have a poorer image quality, and it won’t really hold up to the elements. So, this is definitely a case where you would want to use exterior projection screen paint. Projector screen paint has a higher quality image than normal projector screens, and it costs much less money than you would spend on a screen.
Using projector-specific paint will give you a much higher quality image than, say, just a white sheet or piece of plywood painted with white paint. When you have a lot of natural light it can become very difficult to view a projection if you don’t have projector-specific paint. So this becomes especially important when watching movies outside, because you can’t control the amount of light (remember, even the moon provides light!), so you want to make sure you have a paint with high-contrast ability. You don’t want to get all set up outside only to realize that there is too much light for you to actually see your movie!
This screen paint is made specifically for the outdoors, so it is much more durable than normal paints. And that way you don’t have to worry about your screen that you spent hundreds of dollars on ripping in the wind. You can use this paint on any porous surface (wood, concrete, drywall, etc). You can purchase a large sheet of material at the hardwood store and paint that. Don’t forget the primer, and after a couple coats of paint you have your very own outdoor theater screen. Here is a link to our external screen paint:
Don’t forget the snacks! Just like with any movie, people immediately get the “munchies” when watching a movie outside. You don’t want people tracking dirt in and out of your house, so make sure to have snacks and drinks accessible to your outside movie watchers. Let’s be honest, it’s not a movie without the treats! A few coolers filled with ice and drinks and placed outside are great. Unlike watching a movie inside, messy treats don’t cause as bad of issues when you are watching outside. So this is a great time to break out the classic summer treats: watermelon and popsicles, while not great while watching a movie on the couch, are perfect snacks for outdoor movie watching. Or have a barbecue with all the messy foods you wouldn’t want to eat inside: gooey cheese burgers, corn on the cob, and wings would be great to eat while watching a movie outside! And of course, as with any movie, don’t forget the popcorn!
Need more outdoor movie theater inspiration? View these awesome outdoor theaters!