We’ve produced this guide to creating the perfect outdoor cinema because we can’t think of a better way to spend those long, balmy summer evenings than hosting an open-air movie night.
Outdoor cinema screenings were huge news last summer. But given it’s highly unlikely anyone will be enjoying an open-air movie night at the local park any time soon, why not host one in your own backyard? It doesn’t have to be expensive and best of all, you’ll get to choose what film to watch. Right, someone pass the popcorn!
Love your garden? Visit our garden ideas section for more inspo
Step 1. Find the right location
Whether you’re setting up your outdoor cinema at the bottom of the garden or on a balcony or roof terrace, make sure you have a piece of ground that’s dry and sheltered from the wind.
You could use fairy lights to decorate the space, but make sure you turn them off before you start the movie so they don’t affect the picture. Also try to avoid pitching up in a spot where streetlights or bright indoor lights might reflect against the screen.
To make the space extra special for your audience, spruce it up with paint beforehand. This fence is painted in Dusky Gem, £24.67 for 2.5ltrs, Cuprinol, and the table is made from wooden pallets painted in Lavender, Wild Thyme and Fresh Rosemary, again, all £24.67 for 2.5ltrs.
Step 2. Invest in a projector
It used to be the case that decent projectors were hugely expensive and could only be used in blackout situations – something hard to achieve in a living room, let alone in your garden. However, the latest models are bright enough to use with the lights on, and have plummeted in price. They’re also quieter and more compact, so you needn’t worry that an annoying whirr will spoil any dramatic moments.
When you’re shopping for a projector for your outdoor cinema, you’ll see each one has a lumen measurement. More lumens make it easier to see the projected image in bright conditions. In a garden after dark, we recommend at least 3000 lumens for a movie-theatre experience.
Step 3. Connect a video source
This could be a DVD or Blu Ray player, a laptop or a streaming device such as an Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV box, which you’ll need to connect to your projector through its HDMI port.
If you want great sound, you can connect a speaker through your projector’s 3.5 mm jack, or look for a model with Bluetooth. Go for the latter and you’ll be able to connect wirelessly to a Bluetooth soundbar or speaker, and put more bang into your blockbuster. Or if it’s late and you’re watching alone, you can connect a pair of Bluetooth headphones so you won’t disturb the neighbours.
Step 4. Create your cinema screen
The easiest way to do this is to peg a white sheet to your washing line. You may want to weigh it down at the bottom so that it doesn’t move around in the breeze.
You could also make your own screen by sewing together pieces of blackout lining, which you can buy by the metre. Tack lengths of timber to the top and bottom and attach screw hooks to the top, then hang it over a row of nails on a wall or garden fence.
If money is no object, you could buy or hire an inflatable screen from a company like Inflatable Products.
Step 5. Make sure your guests are comfy
If the best spot is on the lawn, lay a groundsheet on the grass to protect against any moisture or bottom-troubling rocks and stones, then layer blankets, cushions and beanbags to up the comfort factor. You could make your pop-up outdoor cinema more sophisticated by throwing down a few rugs, and setting out chairs, benches or even hammocks to relax on.
Just make sure everyone has a good view, and keep a few blankets aside or perhaps light a fire pit in case it gets colder later on.
More inspiration: Outdoor cushions – our pick of the best
Step 6. Prepare a feast
This could be as easy as pouring popcorn into bowls, and filling a bucket with ice and stocking with bottled drinks, so all you have to do is reach down for a refill. For something more substantial, light up the barbecue or invest in an outdoor oven and host a pizza party.
You could also have a go at making your own lemonade. Simply mix the zest and juice from 6 lemons and 2 limes with 200g of caster sugar, and 1.5ltrs of just-boiled water. Leave the mixture to cool and then chill it in the fridge. We love this trick of using fairy cake cases to identify everyone’s drinks while keeping insects at bay.
Whatever you decide to serve, don’t forget to light some citronella candles to ward off annoying mossies.