Setting Up an Outdoor Summer Movie Night

Bring a quintessential American summer outing home – the drive in movie! Summer is an ideal time to break away from monotonous routines and channel a sense of wonder into family activities. So when summer days stretch into warm, breezy evenings, there’s no need to keep your movie nights indoors.

Drive ins aren’t so easy to come by these days, but no matter how far you live from one, you can bring that experience to your family, with the help of items you already have at home.

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Setting Up Your Outdoor Movie Theater

Set the stage for an enchanting outdoor cinematic experience, one that your family will remember for summers to come! Starlit skies, cool breezes, and your favorite films create an atmosphere that's cozy, magical, and memorable. Transform your outdoor spaceinto a cinematic haven and create lasting memories with a magical outdoor summer movie night.

Before getting down to business – show business, that is – you’ll want to answer these questions:

- Where will we have it? In the grass in the backyard? On the deck? On the porch?
- What’s the weather report for our movie night, including temperature and precipitation?
- What time does the sun set?

If you’re satisfied with the location, weather, and modified bedtime for you and your family, then plan on!

The heart of any outdoor movie night lies in the setup. You’ll need to be able to be comfortable for a few hours. Depending on your backyard space and personal preferences, there are several options to consider:

• Blankets and Pillows: With just a few blankets and pillows, you can create a cozy nest on your lawn. Grab some outdoor cushions or rugs for added comfort. You could even set up that small tent that’s hasn’t gotten any use since last summer.

Lawn Chairs or Tents: Are you inviting neighbors or other family members? Everyone needs to be able to see the screen, so create some tiered seating with lawn chairs of varying heights. Set up the pillows and blankets on the ground closer to the screen for the little ones, and line up the lawn chairs behind them for folks who prefer a seated view instead. Best of both worlds and inclusive for everyone!

Projector or Laptop: The key to a successful outdoor movie night is a clear and vibrant display. A good-quality projector aimed at a blank wall or a white sheet hung between two trees, a TV moved outside (carefully!), or a laptop with a large screen to bring your movies to life. Don’t forget to hook up an external speaker to make sure everyone can hear the action!

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DIY Backyard Movie Night Ideas

Your setup is ready. Now onto the show! You can make the evening really special with a few creative additions, like:

Tickets: Tickets can make the outdoor movie experience feel official and fun for little ones! Enlist the help of your kids to make tickets out of paper or index cards and markers, and then deliver them to everyone who is invited for movie night. This helps to build anticipation and excitement for the outdoor movie night with kids. As each guest arrives, your kids can collect their tickets or punch them with a hole punch to officially kick off the evening’s event!

Signs and Movie Posters: Whenever you go to the movie theater, posters show what’s playing inside. Do the same for your outdoor movie night and hang it on the refrigerator or wherever you keep your kids’ schedules posted. Kids can have fun recreating this part of the traditional movie-going experience by making a poster of the film you’ll watch together under the stars. Using a piece of chart paper or a few pieces of printer paper taped together, your kids can create a movie poster with the movie title, and illustration, as well as the practical information, like the location, date, and time of the show.

• Themed Movie Nights: Select a theme for your outdoor movie night! Some ideas include sports, family features, fairy tales, or a particular genre. Encourage costumes or clothes that go with the theme, adding an element of excitement and anticipation to the evening.

String Lights and Decor: There’s just something about going to the movies, isn’t there? Recreate that special ambiance with string lights, lanterns, or fairy lights. Lights can also help little ones feel safe outside when it’s dark.

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Easy Snack Ideas for Your Outdoor Movie Night

For some, going to the movies is all about the snacks! What’s better than hot popcorn, a cold cola, and sweet treat during a movie? Complement the movie night experience with these snack ideas:

DIY Snack Boxes: For the charm of a movie theater, prepare some small DIY snack boxes with popcorn, candies, and even small bottles of soda. Kids can help choose the candy, flavor of soda, or seasoning to dust on the popcorn, which adds a little nostalgic touch while making it easy for everyone to enjoy their own movie snacks, and will eliminate any adults having to get up multiple times to refill snacks for the kids, since everyone gets their own snack box.

 • S'mores Station: Before the movie begins as the sun is setting, indulge in the best snack of the summer: s'mores! Set up a s'mores station with graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars. Allow everyone to create their own gooey masterpiece over a small fire pit or barbecue.

 • Popcorn Bar: Feeling fancy? Step up your popcorn game with a popcorn bar! You can have a variety of sweet toppings such as caramel, cinnamon sugar, or a chocolate drizzle. And savory options are great, too, like cheese, pizza seasoning, or taco seasoning. Younger and older movie goers alike can customize their popcorn to suit their taste. All you have to do is make a big bowl of popcorn, provide paper bags, and set out seasonings. Your movie guests can fill their bags and shake their toppings to their heart's content.

 • Mini Charcuterie Boards: Mini snack platters with an assortment of cheeses, meats, crackers, sliced fruits, and bite-sized vegetables are a great way to feel fancy while having a balanced snack with a variety of flavors for everyone to enjoy.

 DIY Candy Bags: If a sweet treat is in the cards for your movie night, try a candy bar. Put a variety of candies in jars or bowls on a table. Then, give each moviegoer a small bag or container to fill with their favorite candies.

 Frozen Treats: Hot night? Beat the summer heat with frozen treats! Offer snacks like ice cream sandwiches, popsicles, novelties, frozen fruit pops, or even homemade ice cream.

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Now that everything is in place, press play and let the movie magic begin! Enjoy this time making memories with your family that will last long after the credits roll. You may even love it so much that it becomes a summertime tradition!

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