How to Throw the Ultimate Backyard Movie Night?

Movie nights are the old and still very popular type of group entertainment, usually in family and friend circles. Organizing these events is very interesting and exciting but the key thing is the location. Indoor movie nights are easier to organize because they are more private, you have to think about fewer things as the host and people will still get a lot of fun. There are no people and cars passing by, there is no ambient noise and there are no bad weather conditions or insects that can destroy the evening.

However, an outdoor movie night on a pleasant summer night under the stars can be amazing and overwhelming. Imagine you and your family/friends gathered on your porch or in your backyard watching a new release or your favorite movie, eating snacks, and drinking beer or some other drinks. Sounds great, doesn’t it? The truth is, this kind of fun is more demanding and you have to think about every single detail but once you realize how magical and romantic it can be, you will know that it is worth trying.

As throwing the ultimate outdoor movie night requires serious planning, we made the list of all the important elements you have to think about.

Everything You Need for a Great Outdoor Movie Night

Perfect and cozy place

The outdoor movie night can be thrown anywhere if it’s fine with your guests, even on your porch if it is big enough. However, there is nothing like watching a movie in a backyard so we will recommend you to choose this place. Of course, not all people have large backyards so you have to make a plan how to use the space you have at your disposal. Don’t forget that besides people, there are many objects that have to be placed there so use your space wisely. You have to find the perfect position for your projector screen in order to prevent streetlights to destroy the image. Apart from that, you should plan on how to place a certain amount of people in front of the screen within the perfect viewing angle.

As backyard movie night can’t be perfect if your guests and your family don’t feel comfortable, you have to provide enough soft and cozy pillows, daybeds or lazy bags. You can also place some small tables, benches, and stools, just in case some of the guests prefer sitting on them.

In addition, you have to provide the snacks and alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks, which will help you create a cozy, pleasant, and friendly atmosphere.

A good movie

Some of you may think this is not so important but if you have gathered to watch a movie, it should keep you focused until the end. The best way to pick the right movie is to try to satisfy the taste of every guest. If there will be only adults, you can choose basically anything you like but if there are going to be kids, you better choose something recommended for their age.

Good equipment

Having the right equipment doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. The important thing is that the equipment is balanced with the outdoor conditions and that its elements work normally together. For example, it is very important to wisely combine the player and the projector (i.e. it is important that they can work together and that they have the complementary input/output ports). If they don’t match, you can add some more money and buy an adapter. However, the easiest option is to grab a laptop, connect it to the projector and play a movie.

Quality projector

As we have just said, your projector doesn’t have to cost over $1000 in order to deliver an amazing picture. You can find decent projectors that don’t cost a small fortune. You can even wait until the end of a school year and buy one of the used projectors that most of the schools (or business companies) sell. The important thing is to consider the following features and try to make sure your projector meets most of the requests.


This may be new information for you but lumens are actually the rating that shows us how much light can output our projector. In case your projector has high light output, you will be able to start your projection even before the dusk because these projectors can easily cut through the ambient light as well as streetlights, backyard reflectors, lamps, etc. The minimum brightness value that enables decent projection is 2000 lumens.

Different inputs

If there’s a possibility, try to buy the projector that has all kinds of input ports so that you can easily connect it to your laptop, Blue-ray player or any other type of video source. HDMI connection is always preferred.

Keystone/lens shift

These features are related to the picture correction that improves visual appearance (corrects picture geometry).

Keystone correction is the feature that allows projectors to twist or angle the output image and make it rectangular when they aren’t placed perpendicular to the screen’s horizontal centerline. This feature is usually met with the low-end projectors.

Lens shift, on the other hand, is the feature that enables the lens to move in different directions (up, down, left and right), which can be done manually using a joystick or through the menu buttons. Lens repositioning ensures wider placement scope of the projector. That way, you get your picture adjusted without the necessity to stand up and manually reposition the entire projector.

Both of the features are very important because they enable you to adjust the picture on the go without interrupting the projection, which is very important for every backyard projection.

Throw distance

Throw distance is an important data you have to search for in the specs list whenever you’re buying a new projector because it actually tells you how far the screen has to be from the projector in order to create an image of a certain size. This is directly related to the screen size and the size of the room or backyard where the projection is going to take place.

There are actually 3 groups of projectors: standard (1.5:1 or higher ratio), short throw (0.4:1 to 1.4:1 ratio) and ultra short throw projectors (less than 0.4:1 ratio). Standard projectors require at least 12 feet of distance between the projector and the screen in order to create the 100-inch image. Short throw projectors will require less than 4 feet while the ultra short throw projectors will need even less than that.

Good picture quality

Achieving good picture quality is not as simple as some may think. It is actually affected by several very important factors such as resolution and aspect ratio, brightness output, and contrast ratio.

Resolution and aspect ratios are very similar and closely related. The resolution defines the exact number of pixels that your projector can render and it affects the clarity and sharpness of the picture, while the aspect ratio shows you picture dimensions, width, and height.

The contrast ratio is the black to white ratio. The higher the value, the more intensive black levels you get, which is very important for some movie genres (science-fiction movies, for example).

We have already talked about the brightness but let’s remember that it is affected by the ambient light. The projector’s brightness, as we have mentioned, shall be at least 2000 lumens or even 2500. This kind of brightness relates to the amount of white light but there is also the color light output that shows you how bright will be the colors on your screen. The higher the value, the brighter the colors.

Projector screen material

People use different kinds of materials and the outdoor conditions allow a few imperfections considering a bit too much light or the cloth which is not perfectly stretched and flat. However, you should take care of this and try to pick the best possible material that fits your backyard and your budget. One thing that could also be considered is the type of projection. Some materials are more suitable for the front while the others are more suitable for the rear projection. The rear one is more practical because nobody can walk in front of the projector and spoil the moment but you need some special equipment and enough space behind the screen to achieve this.

Some people simply take their bed sheets and use them as projector screens and, surprisingly, this can work well, especially if you stretch the sheets nicely and evenly between two the trees, walls, etc. You can also use a piece of blackout cloth that is actually made of cotton/vinyl and it is often used for making curtains. This material is more expensive than bed sheets but still very affordable and accessible.

Of course, you can always use your indoor projector screen, or you can get the special outdoor screens, inflatable screens or screens with fixed frames.

Inflatable models are very bulky and you really need a large backyard to place one of these in there. 120 to 140 inches of this material costs between $150 and $200, which makes them quite affordable considering the size. They are light and easy to set up but if you don’t have enough space or the blowers, you should consider some other screen. These are great for both front and rear projection.

Fixed-frame screens have sturdy frames that enable the material to stay nicely stretched and perfectly flat. They look great and they are easy to make but you have to make sure they are stable so they don’t flip over and hit somebody. They aren’t very light since their frames are commonly made of steel.

Sound system

The last but definitely not the least important is the sound system you are going to use for your outdoor movie night. This is very important because your guests have to hear everything clearly even if there is some ambient noise. If your speakers are too weak or muffled, the night will be ruined. Besides, you should consider using Bluetooth speakers because you wouldn’t have to worry of too short, too long or too messy cables coming all the way down from your house.

Now that you have everything prepared, there’s one more thing you should never forget about – your neighbors. Don’t play the movie too late or too loud because the people living next to you have the right to enjoy their own free time the way they want.

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