This is how you bring an outdoor movie theater to your backyard

I remember going to the drive-in theater in my hometown a lot as a kid, and it was always way more exciting than going to a regular movie theater. Unfortunately, my local drive-in closed a number of years ago, leaving me to come up with my own ways to enjoy movies outdoors.

I have hosted movies night in my backyard a couple of times for a few friends, and while it can take a lot of planning and effort to get set up, usually the end results are worth the hassle. You can pull off your own backyard movies without spending a lot, by renting a lot of the equipment you need (such as a projector and screen); however, if you plan on throwing backyard movie nights on a regular basis, there are a few items you can pick up to help you out!

Media Device

There are plenty of media devices that can work with projectors and personally, I find the easiest device to use for outdoor movies is a laptop.

Your biggest concern is to make sure that your media device can hook up to the projector you plan on using and connect to the speakers you're using. Be sure to check what outputs/inputs all your devices have and that you have the appropriate dongles, adapters, and cables for everything before you start.


Now, projectors can be very pricey, but it's important to remember when you're projecting a movie in your backyard, you won't need the latest and greatest movie projector to get the job done. You don't need a projector that has a giant throw distance because your backyard is likely smaller than your average movie theater. Plus, your screen size probably won't be too much bigger than 120 inches, so you won't need to worry about grabbing a projector that can project an image on a massive screen.

Crenova XPE470 mini LED Projector

The Crenova XPE470 mini LED Projector is perfect for backyard movies. It's small, HDMI compatible, and has a max throw distance of about 12 feet, which should be more than enough space to projector a movie in such a small space.

On top of an HDMI input, you can also use USB and VGA connections to project images with the XPE470. It has a max resolution of 1080p, which is more than clear enough for the confined space you have to work with.

Crenova XPE470 mini LED Projector produces about 1200 lumens, meaning you are going to have to wait until it's quite dark out to start the movie, but you shouldn't need pitch black darkness.

You can pick up the XPE470 for about $199 on Amazon; however, I have seen it go on sale for around $90 in the past, so watch out for discounts if you want to spend even less.

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Due to the confined space of your backyard and depending on the capabilities of your projector, you're not going to need an insanely large screen to pull of a successful outdoor movie night.

JaeilPLM 80-inch portable outdoor projection screen

Being able to easily setup and takedown your projector screen is crucial to making your backyard movies go off without a hitch, and the JaeilPLM 80-inch portable outdoor projection screen comes apart and folds into a convenient size.

Not only is it easy to lug around, the 80-inch screen comes mounted on a stand so you can set it up anywhere! The triangle base to the screen makes it much more stable, so slight breezes shouldn't send your screen toppling over; however, if you want to be extra safe I would suggest putting a couple of sandbags (or similarly heavy items) on the base to improve stability even more.

You can pick up the JaeilPLM 80-inch portable outdoor projection screen for $90, and if you really want something a littler bigger, you can pick up the 100-inch version for about $20 more.

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Excelvan projector screen

If you want an even cheaper option that requires just a tiny bit more work to set up, you can always check out the Excelvan projector screen.

Just a simple PVC 84-inch screen, the Excelvan comes with 20 pairs of velcro strips to help you secure it to a surface. Keep in mind, depending on what you have outside, you may need to buy some additional item to hang or place the screen in an optimal location.

The perks of having a simple screen like this is the price. You can pick up the 84-inch Excelvan projector screen for only $30. If you really want to go bigger, they also sell a 100-inch and 120-inch version.

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Obviously, you're going to need some sort of sound amplification to be able to hear the movie you're watching — and there are tons of options out there.

If your media device supports Bluetooth, you could always grab a great Bluetooth speaker to use for sound. Or, if you have a good pair of computer speakers lying around that would connect to your media device of choice, those would also be a solid option. Remember, you're outside and you have neighbors, you don't need the loudest sound system in the world to be able to hear your movie.

If you don't feel like using your nice speakers outside and are looking for a budget-friendly option to use for your backyard movie adventures here's a suggestion.

Logitech Z313 speaker system

Although not overly powerful, the Logitech Z313 speaker system has everything you need to pull off a backyard movie night successfully.

It's a 2.1 system with a dedicated subwoofer, meaning you should have warm bass tones throughout your movie. Plus, it connects through the standard 3.5mm audio jack, meaning most media devices should be able to connect to the Logitech Z313 just fine.

You can pick up the Logitech Z313 speaker system for just about $34.

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A couple of last considerations

Be careful what movie you choose and remember you're probably at least partially in public. Keep the sound to a dull roar and respect your neighbors. You don't need to have a showing of The Revenant while blasting your 3000-watt speaker system at full volume. Make friends not enemies!

Have you ever set up a backyard movie theater?

Are you an outdoor movie fanatic who already has a sweet setup? Let us know what you use to host the perfect backyard movie night in the comments below?

  • There are even cheaper options. Purchased the WEILIANTE Wireless Projector from Amazon and a $5 older screen off Craigslist. Inaugural deck movie at our place was Touching the Void streamed wirelessly from 950xl and worked great with Bluetooth outdoor speaker.
  • Have not tried it myself. But I have been to outdoor filmfestival movies nights. They are wonderful. Great ideas. Great tips.
  • I've done this for 360/Wii game nights, movie nights, played Fibbage 2, etc, etc.  Purchased a used Epson business projector for $300, hooked up my old receiver from college, busted out the Infinity speakers from back then and have had it for years.  Works great!  I don't use a projector screen of any kind.  I use the house siding, our house is white, and you'd think the lines in the siding would be an issue, but after 30 secs...your brain takes the lines out and you see a perfectly good picture.   You can do this very economically if you get creative.