This summer, I hosted a monthly movie night in our backyard for friends to come over and get together. It was a huge success! We have the perfect spot on the side of our garage to project movies, and our backyard was just big enough to fit everyone. We even had a fire pit and s’mores for the nights it was a bit chilly. I adopted the idea from a friend who had movie nights on the side of his row home in Washington DC. It seemed like a great way to build community and send time with one another.
I was flying somewhat blind when it came to planning. I didn’t own a projector, had no clue how to set it up, and was clueless about what all goes into a movie night. So if you are considering hosting one, which I highly recommend, the two main things to consider are the projection setup, and the hosting.
The Projection Setup
- Projector – You need one. I purchased this ViewSonic projector off of Amazon. It certainly is not cheap, but consider it a worthwhile investment! If you have movie nights often, it certainly pays for itself in the long run.
- Speakers – Most projectors have a little volume built-in, but not nearly as much as you need for an outdoor movie. I used the speakers that are normally in my living room, and brought them outside. If you have high quality portable speakers that get very loud, those could work too! Make sure you have the auxiliary cable to connect them.
- Extension Cord & Surge Protector – Your closest outlet is most likely no directly next to where you will be setting up the projector. Make sure you have an extension cord so the plugs can reach, and a surge protector because you don’t want to risk the dewy grass messing up the electronics.
- Stand – The projector and speakers will be to be placed on something. I had a picnic table available to use, but make sure you have something to put in the yard at about hip level to place the projector equipment.
- Screen – A bright white flat surface is needed for the projection to come out clear and not distorted. I bought this portable projection screen, and made a makeshift frame on the side of the garage with scrap wood and binder clips.
- Food & Drinks – We asked everyone to bring something to eat or drink, to keep the atmosphere very casual like an open house. I highly recommend this! But don’t forget to supply some basic movie snacks like popcorn, pretzels, and chocolate candies.
- Chairs & Blankets – I pulled out every single outdoor chair and lawn blanket I could find, to make sure everyone had a place to plop down. You can of course recommend that people bring their own, which seemed to be the easiest option. That way people are as comfy as possible.
- Entertainment Station – I set up the food and drinks on an outdoor potting bench I had made for the special occasion. I suggest you find a place to set everything up that is a bit out of the way of the movie. People tend to congregate where the food is, and you don’t want to disturb the serious movie watchers with all the chit chat.
- Sit back and have fun – I tend to be an overly active hostess when people are over. Something about the casual atmosphere of the backyard party allowed me to just sit back and have fun too! So once everything is set up and the movie is rolling, don’t forget to just hang out and enjoy it yourself.
What I love about movie night is we didn’t have a birthday or special event to celebrate. We didn’t need an excuse to gather, other than for the purpose of gathering. I’d love to hear about other events you’ve hosted for similar reasons! Building community is so important, and the more time we spend with others, the more connected we feel. Let’s make it ours.