How to Plan the Best Backyard Movie Party Ever! (25 Tips)

You want the kind of movie-screening party that really makes your celebration feel alive, especially during this holiday season. Just get your outdoor pocket or pico projector ready plus inflatable screen, as well as a shortlist of great movies then you should be good to go—right? In theory, those are everything you need in order to have the best party ever, but there are still several things to keep in mind to ensure the most excellent of celebrations have come about. Always remember that you can’t be too careful. It’s better to err on the side of caution.

Prepare your movie screening to prevent any accidents or unforeseen complications down the line. Don’t wing it when it comes to pushing through your party. Careful planning will make or break your movie party when push comes to shove.

25 Tips on How to Plan Your Backyard Movie 101

Without further ado, here are some tips on how to plan the best backyard party ever. Follow them in accordance to your needs and discard any entries that don’t apply to your specific movie screening.

1. Become as Prepared as Batman

Planning your backyard movie night should be simple, but only if you’re prepared. If you don’t have a screen, food, drinks, lighting, and so forth, you should put them on your shopping checklist to pick up before even sending one single invites. There can be quite a number of things you’ve failed to consider or forgotten in your excitement to get your movie night off the ground. Don’t put the horse before the wagon. Planning will ensure that you won’t have to cram up last-minute preparations in case of unforeseen events. Take everything into account as much as humanly possible.

2. Make Some Budgetary Decisions from The Start

Don’t do a home drive-in theater or a backyard screening if you can’t afford it. Just go out to the movies instead as a group of friends or as a family. If you already have everything you need—food, a big enough yard, a shelter for the rain, an inflatable screen, and a projector—then your backyard movie party is already halfway done or all the way done. It’s going to be a cheap night, especially if your number of guests doesn’t go beyond a party of 5 to 10. Costs might go up with more guests or if you’re buying the projector or screen plus food and refreshments. Only buy what you can afford or purchase items one by one every payday.

3. Create a Theme for the Movie Screening Night

Your backyard movie party shouldn’t be sold solely for having a backyard movie screening. All parties should have themes and the type of movie you’re showing could set the mood for the right party theme you can use. For instance, you should have the 1950s or 1980s retro party if you’re showing the Back to the Future trilogy. Have people come in fantasy costumes or at least give them complimentary elf years for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Give them toy lightsabers if you decide to screen the Prequel, Original, and Sequel Trilogies of the Star Wars franchise. A night that’s Jaws themed can also involve people in swimsuits. A swimming pool that has enough space for an inflatable screen and projector should do nicely for your Jaws’ movie night.

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4. Check The Weather Forecast

You should check the weather forecast to see if it’s going to rain tonight on your party. The most successful backyard or front yard parties for movie screenings involve clear night skies and stars, to be honest. A warm summer’s day or a cool night at warm lamps with zero precipitation. Simply put, don’t have a movie screening night in the rain or an upcoming hurricane. Naturally, a natural disaster will ruin everything but even if it’s a squall or drizzle, people prefer their outdoor movie night rain-free. Otherwise, they might as well watch the movie indoors in your home cinema. It’s not fun waddling over a wet lawn full of puddles of mud. Cancel and reschedule if rain is expected to arrive on the date of your party. 

5. Send Out Invites Well in Advance

After you’ve fulfilled your due diligence in properly planning your party with the tips included in this guide, you should send out invites well in advance before the actual shindig itself. This doesn’t only give you time to put together the party complete with refreshments, chairs, extra lights, bug spray, the inflatable movie screen, the projector, and your selection of movies to showcase (so that you won’t have to hunt for movies on your Netflix account or something). This will also give them time to open up their schedules for the weekend. You can also learn in advance which guests won’t make it, so that you can invite someone else or prepare food for a smaller number of guests. Inviting people on short notice will potentially resulting you having nobody to play your movie to.

6. Arrange the Movie Night on a Weekend

People go to the movies on weekends for a reason. That’s the best time to go to the cinema. Most have work during the weekdays and those who don’t like freelancers prefer watching movies at home. During the weekends, even introverts can be convinced to go out to the cinema, the drive-in theater, or in this case a weekend backyard movie screening party. Watching movies has always been a weekender type of event. Having neighbors over on a Wednesday night, for example, will have guests leaving halfway through the “matinee” in order to get up early for work or something. Going to a movie on a Friday or Saturday night makes more sense. Sunday night is pushing it though.

7. Make Your Own Custom Tickets or Invites

In the 21st Century, it’s become quite easy to make your own custom tickets or invites for your party. All you need is a computer program or an app as well as a printing company that can print all those tickets out for you. It’s a nice touch to every invite, like the Christmas or birthday gift wrap to your gift of an invite. This can be as simple as a flyer that includes info of the theme, the time, and the venue. You can also buy realistic ticket rolls on Amazon, eBay, and the like. You can have your kids or the kids in the party to serve as ticket collectors. They’ll have fun with this responsibility for sure. Otherwise, you can have a family member do it for you.

8. Get the Guests or Kids Involved and Participating

Some movie screenings or parties have the organizers handling everything. More intimidate affairs, like a family or class reunion can entail having the guests help out with everything as well. There has been many a backyard movie night out there that had children involved and participating as much as possible. Doing so is like a game to them and a huge relief to you and the rest of your family. You can have them take care of ticket collection duty with your bespoke invites. You can also have them in charge of the popcorn machine. They can even do intermission numbers and entertainment, like singing and dancing, if you so wish.

9. Enlist Some Help for Your Party

No matter how small or big your outdoor movie night party can get, it doesn’t hurt to hire help to get things done. There’s absolutely no need for you to run yourself haggard doing everything by yourself or with the assistance of a few family members when you can hire help to get things done (but only if you can afford it). Or you can get your children to help you out, if not the children of your guests. When push comes to shove, you can have your guests help out with the party, turning it into a potluck where they bring snacks and drinks for everyone to share so that you won’t have to shoulder the whole cost and mostly serve as the host for the party along with providing the projector, screen, and movies.

10. An Indoor Projector Won’t Necessarily Work Outside

An indoor projector, especially one made for home cinema use, won’t necessarily work outside. It might if it’s pitch-black in your neighborhood, but neighborhoods with no light pollution tend to be out of the scope of the power grid and thusly not have people with projectors in them. All projectors work best in low-light environments, and suburbia is anything but low-light. Ambient light makes the projection of your projector look fainter than if all the lights of the neighborhood were turned off. You need an outdoor projector that produces a sharp and bright picture even in the presence of ambient light care of moonlight from the moon, headlights from cars, streetlights from the neighborhood, and lamplights from your neighbors.

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11. Just in Case, Have a Plan B Planned Out

You should have a contingency plan just in case your party goes south for whatever reason. Even the best-laid plans (of mice and men) tend to go awry through circumstances beyond your control. Even if you’ve checked the weather forecast, there’s no telling what might happen. You could end up faces with a riot, a bombing, a plague, or something more mundane like your guests being too busy to attend, thus dropping the amount of attendees from 30 to 10 people or something. You should be prepared for the unexpected, including cancellations and rescheduling if need be.

12. Set Up a Gazebo or Awning

One method of enabling your outdoor movie get-together from pushing through despite rain in your backyard is to set up some sort of shelter, such as an awning or gazebo. Naturally, making the roof cover too much space will make it more like a tent, which therefore makes your outdoor movie night more like an indoor experience. Don’t go overboard with your gazebo. Instead, clarify to your contractors their construction workers to make an awning that provides an excellent place for you to place food tables and concession stands to add to the ambiance of your screening or movie marathon when push comes to shove.

13. Backup Equipment Is a Must

In case your projector itself or the fan that’s keeping your inflatable screen inflated were to go out, you should have contingency plans for them in the form of backup equipment. You should have extra projectors or replacement compressors for your projector screen in case the one you wish to use is at fault. You should also have extra USB sticks available that’s full of movies. Get some sandpaper as well to scrub the ends of USB plugs in case they get tarnished over time. Otherwise, have backup media players like your DVD or BD player as well as a wireless transmitter system to connect them to your projector without cables. Having multiple projection options as failsafe choices is a good plan.

14. Use Subtle Outdoor Lighting

Lighting can ruin the clarity of your movie screening. Movie houses dim their lights when the movie is on in order to make it as clear as possible. Even the weakest light looks brightest in pitch-darkness. Meanwhile, the same weak light is practically invisible when in the presence of brighter light sources. The dimmer your outdoor lighting is, the clearer your movie will get. Additionally, small lighting adds to the atmosphere of your party. It enhances your movie night by setting the mood while also serving as a way for guests to see their way to their seats while walking in the darkness of night. Don’t use anything too bright because it affects the projected image’s own brightness. Petite lanterns are enough for your needs.

15. Measure Up Your Available Space

Invite people in accordance to how much space you have for your sitting room and seating arrangement. It also determines the amount of real estate you can spare for your inflatable screen and projector type. Measure up and plan where everything is going to go. Don’t go about things willy-nilly. At the very least, have a rough estimate of things and give some leeway for extra seats or extra empty space for your screen so that you won’t end up in a tight spot, which is the exact opposite of the appeal of a backyard movie screening or outdoors drive-in theater experience. Purchase just enough (with a few extras) seats for the available space as well.

16. Sketch Out or Print Out a Seating Arrangement

Like in the case of a classroom, you should also have a backyard movie night seating plan or arrangement planned out by printing it out then filling in the names or penciling in a rough sketch on where everyone should go and whatnot. This is especially the case when you’re planning to invite large numbers of people. Have a seating plan and reserve seats for people then move things along in case there are those who’ve canceled their invitations. When dealing with huge parties, don’t forget to have an aisle or corridor in the middle of the seats to allow people immediate access to them as well as an easy way out. Make sure the seats are arranged in a way that doesn’t interfere with screen visibility.

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17. Ask The Invited Gusts to Bring Their Own Cushions and Blankets

To save money on buying your own cushions and blankets, you should ask your guests as part of your invite to bring their own cushions and blankets to sit on in case you don’t have a budget for seats or chairs. This will make your movie screening experience feel more like a nighttime picnic at your backyard. This will also save you a lot of washing in terms of grass stains and spilled drinks. If they’re willing, you can also make the movie party a “bring your own beer” kind of affair. Everyone is assured comfortable and the refreshments are left as the responsibility of the guests instead of you and your poor wallet. The more disposable income you have the more you can shoulder the costs for your party. Just remember that you don’t necessarily have to.

18. Get a Chair Set and Put It Out for Movie Night

If you instead wish for your guests to sit down in an environment that’s like an outdoor theater, you should buy them some seats. Sure, there’s a tradition of letting everyone lie on the grass with cushions and blankets to watch a movie via projector and inflatable screen. However, if you can afford it, you should have a chair set handy on the outer circle of the seating area. This is because it’s uncomfortable to lie on the ground for too long, necessitating actual seats, whether they’re folding steel chairs or polypropylene plastic chairs. Such chairs prevent your guests from getting aching joints and knees. Not to mention, they should be reserved for any senior citizen guests as well.

19. Be Creative with Your Seating Options

If you’ve decided to have mostly chair sets available for your movie screening rather than having guests lie or sit on your lawn with their own blankets and cushions, then you should be creative with your seating arrangements. You can throw outdoor movie night parties wherein you can exercise a bit of creativity on how the seats are arranged or what kind of chairs you’ll use. If it’s a PG or G kind of movie romp, like watching the whole Disney library or Pixar movie line, you can have the kids sit in cardboard cars while watching “Cars” or something. You can also invest in hay bales, deck chairs, or inflatable pools or hot-tubs depending on what sort of guests you’re expecting. It doesn’t always have to be plastic or steel chairs for seats.

20. Don’t Invite the Wrong Mix of Guests

Organizing a party isn’t the only way to assure its success. The successfulness of your movie screening will also depend on the type of people you invite to it. Some people, like Democrats and Republicans or Baby Boomers and Millennials, mix like oil and water (without soap to help them along). Certain friends and family members of yours won’t get along no matter what you do. Think about the mix of people in your party and decide whether they’re a neutral or gun powder keg of a combination. Even though movie nights are typically excellent social gatherings, your Mother-in-Law is unlikely to mingle with your old college friends or the like after they’ve drunk a few bottles of beer and whatnot. Be self-aware and aware of others.

21. Supply Ashtrays for The Smokers

Ever since the dangers of smoking tobacco have been exposed to the general public with the Surgeon General’s warning and whatnot, fewer and fewer people have taken on the bad habit. However, there are still loads of smokers in many a family, especially those who took up the habit back in the 1950s and 1960s, so you should have a senior uncle or grandpa that still lights up at gatherings but stays away from the kids or the dinner table to prevent them from inhaling secondhand smoke. You should supply these people with sand buckets or ashtrays fro them to stub their cigarettes when they’re done with them. This will prevent you from having to sweep up cigarette ends all over your lawn, backyard, or flower beds.

22. Plan a Date Night for a Loved One

Instead of having a movie night with a family or a classroom full of people, you can turn your movie screening with a jumbo screen and a projector into a date night. Make it a private affair with you and a loved one—whether they’re your spouse, fiancée/fiancé, boyfriend/girlfriend, or a crush who needs a strong hint of your love for him/her—watching a romantic classic like “Casablanca” or “Sleepless in Seattle”. It’s like you’ve reserved a theater for him or her so that you can watch something in peace. You can even opt for non-romantic movies if you’re both huge Star Wars or Marvel Cinematic Universe nerds. Few things can beat the romance of lying under the stars while watching a movie together that’s not just you huddling to a small laptop screen or your HDTV.

05 The Ultimate Guide to Planning an Outdoor Movie Night

23. Combine the Movie Night with a Celebration

A movie night can become an extra special night if you’re using it to celebrate some sort of milestone like you getting a raise, a promotion, a new job, a wedding anniversary, a birthday, or some sort of holiday ranging from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. It can even serve as a reward of sorts, like throwing a movie screening party for your eldest plus friends when he or she graduates. Similarly, you can have a Fourth of July Independence Day celebration while screening, appropriately enough, the popcorn flick “Independence Day”. You can also watch all sorts of Halloween, Easter, or Valentine’s Day movies appropriate for whatever holiday you’re celebrating currently.

24. Buy a Red Carpet for Your Guests to Enter On

Get a red carpet to give your guests the red carpet premiere treatment when they arrive for your movie night at your backyard. Having it adds a feeling of sophistication to your celebration, even if you were to buy a cheap carpet off of Amazon. Your guests won’t be able to tell and they’ll feel like a million bucks entering your outdoor movie screening on a red carpet that leads them to the seating area of your lawn. You can even have your kids sit on a cardboard ticket office or table in order to hand out customized invites or bespoke tickets for all your family and friends. It’s the little details that will make your screening truly feel like a red carpet gala or event.

25. Use Strategically Placed Trash Cans

Last but not least is trash management. Your guests will end up with trash one way or another, from the cigarette butts they snuff out on your ashtrays to the leftover popcorn on their cardboard containers. Although wishful thinking will have you believe that your guest will have respect for your backyard, in practice they only respect it as far as you can discipline them into respecting it. Make things easier for them to keep things tidy by having strategically placed trashcans with trash bags on them available for immediate disposal of trash, whether they’re snack containers or leftover food. The bins should also indicate if they’re for biodegradable or non-biodegradable trash for good measure.

In Summary

The drive-in movies of yesteryear might not be as popular as before, but because of home cinemas and affordable projectors, it’s now possible to keep the flame of the drive-in theater alive but now in the form of backyard DIY movie screenings. You don’t need to cross state lines to catch drive-in theaters made for movie festivals and some such. You can now enjoy it at the comfort of your own home. You can also acquire these pocket projectors for $100. However, by investing in more expensive projectors, you can acquire 4K UltraHD ones with better durability as well as various other innovations like better brightness to allow you to see the image better with the ambient lights turned on all around your backyard.

Image Credit:

James Core

I love my projector system and I am here to help you find the right projector for your needs.

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