How To Host A Backyard Movie Night

Before the weather outside gets frightful — admit it or not, we all know winter is coming — why not host a backyard movie night?

Here’s how to host a backyard movie night.

The movie.

Pick a crowdpleaser. (A nostalgic favourite like E.T. or The Breakfast Club is always a safe bet.) Avoid anything that might be hard to follow — a film with a lot of low, muffled dialogue or prolonged dark scenes, for example — or could traumatize the neighbours’ kids if they peeked over the fence. Keep it PG-13.

The invites.

Determine how many people will be able to comfortably view the screen before you send out the invites. In the invitations, emphasize that you’ll be outdoors all night so that guests are dressed appropriately. Ask them to bring their own blankets and pillows or lawn chairs. Keep it super-casual and make the movie snacks a potluck.

Pick a start time about half an hour before dark so that guests can mingle and load up on snacks before the movie starts (at sundown).

The gear.

You’ll need a projector, sound system and screen. Be sure to test your equipment and setup in advance to avoid technical difficulties on the night of the party.

Projector: Check to see if your local library has projectors available to borrow. If not, consider renting one or buying one second-hand.

Sound system: A good bluetooth speaker should do the trick. (Or borrow a sound system from a DJ or musician friend.)

Screen: If your backyard doesn’t have a giant white wall, create a screen from a white canvas drop cloth or blackout cloth. (An ironed bed sheet can work, too, although it will be more likely to ripple in the wind. Secure it well and with some tension.)

The seating.

Pillows and blankets often look comfier than they are in this setting. Be sure to have adequate seating on hand for guests who’d prefer chairs. (Predetermine the best seating arrangement before guests arrive.)

The snacks.

No movie night is complete without snacks. Plan for a variety of salty and sweet options — with plenty of popcorn. While you can’t go wrong with a candy buffet on a picnic table, be sure to pass around snacks during the movie, too. Guests might be hesitant to get up during the movie to refill their plates.


The neighbours: If your neighbours live close, consider inviting them to join you. Keep the volume at a reasonable level. Avoid films with screaming and alarming sounds or visuals that the neighbours might complain about. Stick to one feature, so the party won’t go too late.

Lighting: Provide a soft glow with string lights or candles to prevent guests from tripping in the dark if they need up get up during the movie.

Intermission: Give your guests an opportunity to stretch — sitting on the ground can be tough on the body — chat and sneak off to the bathroom during an intermission. Make sure to pick your intermission spot wisely so you don’t interrupt an important scene. Consider screening “intermission entertainment”: short reels from ‘50s ad ‘60s drive-ins.

What movie would you want to see on an backyard screen?

Sources: (incl. tech specs)

resources, recommendations:

intermission entertainment: