5 Tips for a Spectacular Outdoor Movie Night

Easy ideas to turn your driveway into a drive-in movie theater

Last weekend our neighborhood organized it's first outdoor movie night. It was a blast! More importantly, it was easy to pull off.

One day I was talking to my neighbor and mentioned how fun it would be to host an outdoor movie night for the kids. He mentioned that he had a projector from work that we could use.

From there, the idea took off. So, sharing what I learned from our event, here are 5 tips for you to plan a spectacular outdoor movie night for your neighbors, friends or family. (This would also be an awesome birthday party idea.)

1. Stay close to home. When choosing a location for your movie event, keep a few things in mind - electricity, light control, bathroom access, and rain. We have an open field near our houses where I was thinking of hosting movie night because we would have a lot of room. However, we would have had to run so many extension cords that the idea was not feasible. So, pick a spot where you have easy access to electricity like your backyard, patio, or even garage. Make sure there aren't any really bright street lights nearby to ruin your viewing. If you stay close to home the kids can easily run home to use the restroom. If it rains, you'll want a back-up plan like someone's garage to move the fun under cover and quickly. 

2. It's all in the equipment. To project your movie you're going to need a movie player (DVD player or computer), screen or side of a house, a projector and a sound system. For the screen, we just hung a white sheet over the garage door to even out the surfaces. The picture looked amazing. Here's a link with easy instructions on how to set up the equipment. You can rent equipment but ask around and see if your friends or neighbors have what you need. Keep it inexpensive! Finally, if you have a giant TV, just move it outside for viewing under the stars.

3. Snacks make the party. You can have so much fun with snacks for an outdoor movie party. A gourmet popcorn bar with different flavors or seasonings would be fun. Movie theater-style candy like Junior Mints, Milk Duds, Raisinettes, and Dots will get everyone in the mood. Here's a post I wrote on Snacks to Spice Up Family Game Night that would work perfect for an outdoor movie night as well.

4. Pick the right movie.  Consider the ages of the kids that will be coming and choose a movie accordingly. It could be a classic, a family-friendly movie or a great comedy. Keep in mind that really young kids might not attend because movie night will start after their bedtime. Stick with PG or PG-13 movies to make sure no one is offended or uncomfortable. We watched Despicable Me, one of my favorites. Ask the kids in your neighborhood for suggestions or check out this list of 20 Best Movies for Families from Parenting.com.

5. Delegate. Even if you are hosting or organizing the event, put your neighbors and friends to work. Put one in charge of making the flyer that goes in everyone's mailbox. Ask everyone to bring extra chairs, drinks, or snacks. Ask houses with an even number address to bring a dessert while odd number houses bring an appetizer. 

For more planning, decorating, and snack ideas, check out my Family Movie Night Board on Pinterest.  

Have you ever hosted an outdoor movie night? Any other tips you can add? What movie did you watch?


Sue Kirchner is a family fun coach, kids party planner, and weekly contributor to Patch.com. Sue and her family fun ideas have been featured on TV, newspapers, magazines, blogs, as well as her own family fun site ChocolateCakeMoments.com.

Jennifer Fisher July 19, 2012 at 04:30 PM
@Sue - you're welcome! Something tells me they're not going to come beating down your door :)
Scott Nelson July 20, 2012 at 07:33 AM
My wife and I screened American Reunion last week in our backyard. We borrowed a DVD projector and wireless 5.1 speakers. We projected the movie off our new white eggshell pool cover hung on the side of our house. We started out with 14 friends and finished with 9 neighbors and their kids joining us. We have decided to do this 3 times a summer. I first saw American Pie in college. It's great they have the original cast back. A keg of Bass Ale, ribs and chicken from Ravinia BBQ and Stifler's Mom. Perfect movie, perfect food and a nice buzz with friends, family and our neighbors.
Brian L. July 20, 2012 at 12:04 PM
At a friends house, we watched The Naked Gun on the side of his house. It was a great night. We used a nice projector hooked up to...that's right....a laser disc player. It's a great time if you have the resources to pull it off. A few drinks, a classic movie, and good friends, you can't beat it.
Outdoor Movies July 20, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Great suggestions and post! You can also take away any stress and hire a outdoor movie company. For example, in Ohio Buckeye Outdoor Cinema has backyard movie screen packages for under $399.99. Outdoor Movies are making a comeback! www.BuckeyeOutdoorCinema.com
Rana Bilal Manzoor February 22, 2013 at 01:47 PM
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