How to Host the Ultimate Outdoor Movie Night

an outdoor movie night

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Looking for a fun way to hang out with friends and family this summer? You can’t go wrong with an outdoor movie night in your backyard. Enjoy the latest blockbuster or take in an old classic all from the comfort of your own home — and you won’t break the bank paying for tickets or snacks at the theater. Check out these tips on how to throw an outdoor movie night bash that everyone will love.

Establish the Basics

Before you invite guests over to kick up their feet and enjoy a flick on the silver screen, you have to set it up. That includes choosing the right location for your outdoor theater, the type of screen you’ll use and the best sound system.

Think about where you want to set up your al fresco theater. It often depends on the type of outdoor movie screen you have. Maybe there’s an obvious spot in your backyard perfectly suited for a big screen and enough seating for everyone.

Otherwise, you might have to get creative. Take your pick between inflatable screens, freestanding and portable metal frames or pull-down options. If you don’t want to splurge on equipment, you can find an affordable projector and hang up a white sheet on an exterior wall of your house.

A movie projector showing a film

However, if you know you’re going to host outdoor movie nights regularly, you might spring for a more advanced model. Projectors can cost anywhere from around $50 to a couple hundred or even thousands of dollars. Avid film buffs who want the best visual and audio quality can invest in higher-end projectors and sound systems that deliver a theater-like experience from the convenience of their own yard.

Set the Scene

Once you have the technical details worked out, you can focus on making your backyard theater your favorite place to hang out. You want to set the right ambiance for your outdoor movie night. That includes the proper lighting, seating and decor.

Lighting is important for any movie night, especially when you’re outdoors and have less control over natural light sources. Make sure you schedule your movie night for the right time of day, close to or after sunset — too early and the bright sun will make it hard to see the screen.

However, you don’t want to leave your guests totally stranded. Make sure there’s enough light in your backyard so people can walk around safely after dark. Consider using lanterns, string lights or other gentle, ambient light sources that illuminate the ground without throwing glare on the screen.

Bulb lights on a fence in a backyard

Since you’ll be spending a few hours sitting down, comfortable seating is a must. You can go casual with picnic blankets and pillows spread out on the grass, set up camping chairs or invest in patio furniture that doubles as comfy outdoor theater seats. A mix of options ensures everyone can get comfortable and enjoy the film.

Pick the Right Flick

Choosing the right film might be the most important part of a successful movie night. It all depends on your audience — you want something that will appeal to everyone. 

Are you having family over, including little ones? Pick a family-friendly movie that has some laughs for everyone. Kids will love the novelty of watching a movie outside and the freedom to run around the yard if they get restless.

When you’re hanging out with a group of friends, you can’t go wrong with classic blockbusters, from your favorite comedies to exciting action movies or fantasy epics. Want a real thrill? Screen some underrated horror movies in October — or any time of year you’re looking for a good scare. 

The film sets the vibe for the rest of the evening. Since you’re all there to have a good time, pick something fun. Unless you’re all devoted film fanatics, find a movie with a plot that’s easy enough to follow — people are likely to be socializing and getting up and down for snacks or bathroom breaks.

Provide Ample Refreshments

No outdoor movie night experience is complete without snacks and drinks. Fortunately, the refreshments are one of the easiest parts of planning your night. You can’t go wrong with classic movie theater staples, like popcorn, nachos, soft pretzels and an assortment of candies.

Since you’re conveniently located in your own backyard, you can take things a step further. Fire up the grill and make some hotdogs and burgers for your guests. Everyone loves a backyard barbecue with a show!

Man in an apron grilling

Make sure you provide an array of drinks, too. Depending on what your guests prefer, you can stock up on craft beers, cocktail ingredients or your favorite wine. Offer non-alcoholic drinks to ensure everyone can quench their thirst.

If you want to take things to the next level, serve drinks based on the film you’re showing. Take inspiration from the cult classic “The Big Lebowski” and make white Russians or create your own cocktails. Show off your bartending skills and your film knowledge at the same time with custom drinks based on your favorite movie.

Expect the Unexpected

If you’ve ever planned an outdoor event, you know unexpected issues can pop up quickly. Take all precautions to ensure things run smoothly, like checking out all the equipment beforehand. You don’t want to be caught without the right cable to connect your laptop to the projector when you’ve got a full audience waiting for the show.

However, some issues are unavoidable. Having a backup plan is essential when you’re hosting an outdoor movie night. Check the forecast frequently leading up to your party. If you’re expecting bad weather, consider rescheduling. Sometimes the skies open up without warning — if it starts raining on your movie night, make sure you’re prepared to move things inside.

Backyard patio with movie screen

Don’t let bumps in the road stop you from enjoying your time with family and friends. Be ready for any hiccups and you’re sure to be everyone’s favorite host.

Hosting the Best Outdoor Movie Night for Friends

Hanging out with friends and watching movies is a time-honored tradition. Kick back and relax in the comfort of your backyard with these tips on how to host the best outdoor movie night. All you need is the right equipment, delicious snacks and the best company to create lasting memories.

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