One of the great ways to celebrate the New Year is to start planning your own outdoor movie nights. Sure, this is typically a summertime activity but why not mix it up and do it for the winter holidays leading up to the birth of a brand new year? It couldn’t hurt. Besides which, you can go about outdoor movie nights that extend beyond going to a drive-in theater. It’s actually more fun and exciting to have your own personal viewing theater outdoors since you can have a better view of the fireworks at night and whatnot.
You also have more control over what types of movies you want to play or even stream. With that said, what are the gadgets you should have when organizing our movie night experience for the New Year?
- 1 The 10 Must-Have Things for an Outdoor Movie Party
- 1.1 1. Projector
- 1.2 2. Inflatable Movie Screen
- 1.3 3. Portable Movie Screen
- 1.4 4. Waterproof Bluetooth Speakers
- 1.5 5. Portable Charger and Spare Batteries
- 1.6 6. USB Stick or Portable Hard Drive
- 1.7 7. Extension Cables That Reach Your Equipment
- 1.8 8. Subtle Outdoor Lighting
- 1.9 9. Popcorn Machine or Popcorn Maker
- 1.10 10. Bug Spray, Zapper, or Insect Repellent
- 2 When Push Comes to Shove
The 10 Must-Have Things for an Outdoor Movie Party
Without further ado, here are the 10 must-have gadgets for your movie night you shouldn’t forget.
You naturally need a projector in order to have an amazing backyard movie night experience. Your party of 5, 10, or more can’t view things on a tiny laptop, after all. Also, widescreen TV is too expensive to be used anywhere else except outdoors. You should specifically get your hands on a mini-projector that works outdoors. The beauty of a pocket or pico projector is that despite its name, it packs a big punch in terms of projection size. Don’t let the “mini” part fool you. You’re not getting a laptop-sized projection image that defeats the purpose of having a projector.
These miniature projectors produce huge projections that allow at least a small audience in your front yard or backyard a nice view of whatever movie you’re looking at. Some of these projectors even have their own speakers in case you don’t have a speaker setup available to work outdoors or you’re lacking enough cables extensions to your indoor power sockets to make them happen. More importantly, the mini projector market has really exploded, such that you can get decent ones available specifically made for outdoor usage that comes with their own battery packs and whatnot.
These projectors allow you to keep the flame of the drive-in movie alive without necessarily having to cross state lines in order to attend movie festivals and theaters that still serve up the outdoor movie experience. A quick Google search is all you need to put together a list of recommended mini or pocket projectors. You can go cheap, portable, and easy to operate or find something more sophisticated in accordance to your needs. You can even get these projectors for less than $100 but you might wish to get them beyond that price range in order to ensure you have a higher quality and longer-lasting product in your hands.
You should also have an outdoor inflatable movie screen available to you for the sake of having something for your mini-projector or projector with an extension cord to have something to project their images to. It’s certainly better than projecting to a brick wall or something—you can do that but it’s not recommended. The nuance and full quality of whatever it is you’re watching, whether it’s a recent movie or an old-timey TV program with a 4:3 aspect ratio, will be lost because of a wall, even a plain white wall, doesn’t nearly have as many reflective properties as a screen.
Even painting a wall with projector screen paint doesn’t have the desired perfect fidelity effect of an actual screen made of fabric, plastic, or blackout material. If you wish your outdoor holiday viewing experience to not look like you’re viewing a TV screen underwater, it’s best that you get an outdoor movie screen of the inflatable kind. The inflatable parts of this screen allow it to stand on its own, such that you don’t need to invest in an expensive rig with metal support beams to keep your screen directly in front of your pico or full-sized projector. It’s also better than projecting your movie at a wrinkly bed sheet or a hanging movie screen mounted on your house.
Simply put, setting up your inflatable projector screen is easy. Just buy one from the store then follow the instructions on how to inflate it properly. Then you’re done. It can stand on its own even when a strong gust of wind is blowing in New Year’s. It’s commonsensical to go the inflatable screen route because it was built for the purpose of movie nights outdoors for the regular consumer (as opposed to the intrepid cinema owner with a parking lot). Just as a home cinema takes the magic of a commercial cinema back home an inflatable projection screen helps set up your outdoor or backyard movie theater at the comfort of your own home.
If you wish to save money from having to buy a full-sized inflatable projector screen, you also have the option to get a portable projector screen instead. A portable projector should naturally come with its own similarly portable projector. Some mini projectors or pocket projectors can come in a package deal that includes a movie screen of its own that’s foldable or otherwise collapsible into a briefcase for easier mobility, transportation, and storage when push comes to shove. If you’ve decided that an inflatable screen is too much for your budget or lawn space then you can get a more space-saving portable movie screen set up instead.
The idea here is to find solid ground that’s not grassy knolls or literal dirt for you to put up your portable movie screen because these screens are usually made for use at conferences and stable, tiled floors. It’s not like the ATV version of projection screens that is the inflatable screen that has mount you can inflate to give it a balanced and hard-to-tip-over base not unlike how you’d inflate a bouncy castle or an inflatable kiddy pool. Additionally, it’s far easier to fold and store a portable movie screen exactly because it can be turned into carry-on luggage or at least something you can carry around with you without feeling like you’re lugging around a whole door or something.
If you wish to buy a screen that’s easier to store and is a bit more robust against the wind than a tripod projector screen or a projector screen with wheeled mounts as though it’s a whiteboard for a classroom, then you should specifically search for those features within your prospective portable movie screen of choice. The standing or hanging models on the market can withstand those gusts while remaining stable. You can even avail of amazingly affordable DIY outdoor movie screens that can be simple to set up for the home improvement fanatics out there.
Unlike a drive-in theater or movie house, you can’t tune in your car radio to a specific station in order to hear the sound of the movie, thus your car speakers will serve as your sound system. When dealing with a DIY outdoor movie viewing extravaganza, you’ll instead have to rely on waterproof Bluetooth speakers to get the job done. Why should they be waterproof if it’s not raining in the New Year’s? You never know. You have to err on the side of caution when doing outdoor anything. Come to think of it, have an umbrella over your projector and any extensions it’s connected to for good measure.
Protect any electrical connections you have linked to the projector so that they don’t get wet and you don’t get a power surge or electrocution accident. That means having a kiddy pool beside your electrical equipment is a no-no. Back to the Waterproof Bluetooth speakers—they should also be Bluetooth in order to allow for wireless connection between projector and speakers. Modern 21st Century projectors—whether they’re of the LCD, DLP, or LCoS variety—also feature Bluetooth tech that’s typically associated with cellphones and smartphones. From huge speaker systems to wireless earphone pods, Bluetooth makes such links possible.
The built-in speakers of your outdoor movie projectors can work, but only if you have a small audience of 5 people viewing the movie, and 5 is already pushing it. For bigger crowds, like your entire office wishing to have a New Year’s movie night complete with barbecue, you should invest in a Bluetooth system. The beauty of Bluetooth is that you can stack up more speakers, base, and subwoofers as needed the bigger your party becomes. The combined features of being Bluetooth and waterproof is all you need from your movie speaker purchase, speaking from experience. Also, get a speaker with 30-hour battery life to boot.
5. Portable Charger and Spare Batteries
One way to avoid electrocution is to have a portable charger handy. It’s better than being wired to your electrical sockets and the power grid. The weather can be mercurial at times such that it might snow or rain when you don’t want it to. Therefore, it’s much safer to have a portable charger, power bank, and battery available for your portable charging and electricity needs. It’s the same deal with your smartphone or tablet. After you’ve charged them up you should be able to use them for the rest of the day or at least half your work hours (4-6 hours) until the next charge.
Naturally, the most practical type of projector is the pocket projector with its own cellphone-like or laptop-like charger that charges itself up in a couple of minutes yet gives you hours upon hours of wireless fun. A good projector should be able to let you view a movie or two until it needs either a battery change or a wired connection to your nearest power outlet. A portable charger gives you enough juice to keep your projector powered up during the whole movie or movie marathon. At the very least, it should get you through all Lord of the Rings movies, and those go on like forever!
A power bank model with a USB port should do the trick. USB-A or USB-B ports have always been available for all modern projector types, especially pocket projectors since those and other mobile devices are always on the forefront of modern tech. A good power bank is so “powerful” that it should be able to let you charge your other devices like your MP3 player, smartphone, tablet, and even digital camera along with your projector that’s going out of juice. It’s a sensible purchase for movie-loving cinemaphiles who wish to be as prepared as the Boy Scouts when doing their outdoor movie celebration for the upcoming New Year’s Eve.
6. USB Stick or Portable Hard Drive
The Blu-Ray or DVD media player isn’t only going the path of the dodos and dinosaurs technology-wise (since technology marches on always). They’re also impractical for outdoor movie night viewing. Portable DVD or CD players are few and far between. They usually come with their own screens, like laptops made exclusively for viewing movies. It’s even rarer for these portable players to have the right USB or VGA connections that allow them to digitally transfer their video feed to a projector. Most media players work best in an indoor home cinema setting. To transfer them outdoors requires a whole lot of cable extensions and extenders.
That’s where the USB stick or portable hard drive comes in. That way you can use the HDMI or USB ports of your outdoor movie projectors with a more portable device that can withstand the elements of your front yard or backyard. Alternatively, you can use a receiver-transceiver wireless package that allows your projector to connect to your indoor DVD or BD player remotely or from far away, thus allowing you to project their content onto the big screen without you hooking up any cables or wires into them. However, wireless tech isn’t perfect and you may experience some glitches or artifacts from a rough connection.
Yes, there are also models of mini projectors that can stream content from the Internet or Netflix in order to allow you to have a movie marathon through your Wi-Fi Internet connection instead of through digital disks or flash drives. The most “ghetto” of ways to play movies through your projector is by hooking up your laptop to the device as though you’re doing a PowerPoint Presentation with it. It’s a proven method of success though since LCD video projectors in the 1990s were all about those PC linkups. However, it’s still safer to go the tablet, smartphone, USB stick, or HDD route since those aren’t as sensitive to accidental drops as the typical notebook PC.
7. Extension Cables That Reach Your Equipment
Let’s say you don’t want to buy a rig to turn your projector into a wireless device. Even if that’s not the case, you will still have to get a power strip or extension cord of some sort in order to link up your portable mini projector to the power outlet for charging or continued use. This is especially going to be the case for those long 12-hour movie marathons, like when watching the whole gamut of black-and-white Universal monster movies or covering the whole 7 movies included in the Harry Potter series. You want some cable extensions to connect your equipment to your power socket for continuous viewing.
To be more specific, some equipment for your movie night requires extension cables to the main power source in order to work, such as your BD or DVD player as well as your cable/satellite box. Not all pieces of equipment you need to view movies are wireless or portable. Your inflatable movie screen will also need a blower fan to keep the screen and projector cool. It might also require an inflator device or air compressor to inflate the movie screen properly. You’ll also need an extension for your laptop or notebook PC to keep it charged up from time to time or at least at 4-hour to 6-hour intervals. Actually, it’s ideal for you to have outdoor power sockets if you’re doing an outdoor movie party.
Proper cabling and cable management is a core component of a successful movie night because it ensures a constant stream of power. Cable management also serves as a means of keeping you safe. The cables should be protected from moisture or wetness. You should also have extensions to make sure that your cables aren’t too short to reach the house and its multitude of electrical sockets. It’s easy to overlook extension cables when planning out your outdoor movie night. Therefore, you should prioritize shopping for extension sockets and cable clips along with your pocket projectors and projection screens.
It can get really dark at night, the light pollution of the city aside. You should have lights available for your movie night for safety’s sake. You and your guests should have those lights available to be able to see not only your movie screen but also the lawn around them. The lights should be subtle though because if the lights are too powerful as though they’re fog lights, they might affect the clarity or brightness of your movie itself. Otherwise, just increase the brightness of your projector in order to make its image bright enough to be seen even in the presence of ambient light. In short, the lights should be bright enough to see around you but not so bright as to make your movie hard to see.
You should have outdoor lighting lamps, lanterns, and bulb fixtures to spare so that your guests won’t end up bumping all over each other. You should also purchase these lights with your cables and cable management in mind. You should have outlets readily available for these lights without getting all your cables tangled. You should also avoid ending up with spaghetti wires or octopus connections as much as possible. Make your connections as clear and non-obstructive as possible, or else they’ll defeat the purpose of getting lights for safety’s sake in the first place. Your cabling should make things safer instead of riskier. Don’t let your guests trip on these cables or lights!
If you wish for lighting that increases the ambiance of your movie-viewing experience, then specifically invest in softer yellow lights for your outdoor lighting needs. Doing so serves two goals. First, you can avoid having your guests stumbling in the dark, with their only illumination being the screen. Second, it can be quite aesthetically pleasing to have decorative lights set the mood of your viewing experience. You don’t need to go all out with your lighting setup as though you’re making Christmas decorations. Be as subtle with your placement as the lights you’ve bought. Place them on the walkway or pathways of your backyard.
Buying a popcorn machine might seem like an excessive and unnecessary purchase since you can always go for the microwavable variety of the famous movie snack. However, Amazon and other online vendors have brought the price down for these appliances that you can afford to add them in your New Year’s movie viewing marathon experience. You can’t go wrong with popcorn and your guests will definitely appreciate the fact that they’re all for free as part of the party. Movie houses are infamous for jacking up concession stand prices, after all. The popcorn bags and butter themselves are quite affordable.
You can even go the extra mile with your popcorn machine by actually having a popcorn stand setup or rig made. This way, you’ll have a never-ending supply of popcorn for your movie audience. Just buy a cheap popcorn machine online through vendors like Amazon and eBay. From there, have your guests order their bags or buckets of popcorn for free. This way, your guest won’t get hungry and you won’t have to worry about feeding them real meals that, when push comes to shove, will probably cost you more than simply setting up your own popcorn stand. You need something light on the stomach so as not to interfere with the movie-viewing experience of watching all 9 Star Wars movies.
You can’t exactly enjoy a filet mignon or lamb while having your attention split with the Rocky and Creed movies playing in the background. It somewhat dulls the experience of having your attention split between eating and watching movies. You can easily watch and munch popcorn at the same time singe it’s finger food that you don’t need to concentrate on in order to eat properly. What’s more, it’s usually better to use a popcorn machine and make a popcorn supply that you can play into paper or cardboard popcorn bags (for that authentic feel) than to test the limits of your microwave by microwaving dozens or hundreds of microwavable popcorn bags at a given night.
10. Bug Spray, Zapper, or Insect Repellent
If you want to get technical and claim that bug spray isn’t really a gadget, then you can include bug zapper into the list. There, it’s now a “gadget” or “appliance”. Regardless, having something available to deal with those nasty bugs is in order for your backyard movie viewing night to be a success. It’s more than distracting to have to deal with itch-causing mosquitoes flying around sucking the blood of your guests. You also don’t want bugs to end up in their mouths or their popcorn either. You want your backyard movie night for New Year’s to be as bug-free as possible.
It’s a worthwhile recommendation that deals with insects and bugs in one go. However, you might wish to use more natural means to kill those insects at night in case you’re an environmentalist and conservationist who doesn’t want the bee population to die out due to the use of powerful bug sprays and insecticides. Therefore, it’s also prudent to invest in a bug zapper since bugs go get zapped by it like moths to a candle flame. To be more specific, it’s not only the moths that have that lemming-like tendency or mentality to be attracted to a bright light that could kill them.
The alternative to bug spray and zappers is you and your guests lathering ourselves with bug repellent lotion as though you’re out to swim at the pool and you wish to keep your skin protected with high-SPF sunblock lotion. These are the risks and realities you have to face when doing any activity outdoors. If you can afford it, you could set up your backyard movie lights to be composed of several zappers so that the insects flocking to the lights could get zapped by them. However, a generalized bug spray application around your backyard is usually enough to deal with your insect problem, especially if your movie party is only for one night (New Year’s Eve).
When Push Comes to Shove
You probably have all the essentials available to get your movie night started such as your portable projector and screen. However, you might end up forgetting several things in your excitement. This guide should show you what you need to get in order to make your New Year’s Eve celebration a true night to remember. It lists down 10 cool product and gadget ideas to really ensure that your movie marathon will be off the chain, whether you wish to view the Lord of the Rings trilogy or have a full screening of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies starting with Iron Man and ending with Avengers Endgame.