4 steps to hosting an outdoor movie night

Just because the summer is winding down doesn’t mean the fun has to. While the weather is still nice outside, it’s time to pull off one more outside event this season. An outdoor movie night is a great way to spend time with those you care for the most while also enjoying the great outdoors — the kids will love it, and we’re pretty sure if you hosted one for your friends, they would too. Make sure to bookmark this page or take notes because our friend, Ericka, from Nibbles and Feasts has some backyard movie night ideas for us.

Step 1: The set-up

Outdoor Movie Night Set-Up

You’re going to want to start preparing a few weeks in advance to make sure you have everything you need for your movie viewing. But apart from a bit of planning, the set-up itself is actually quite simple. All you really need are four things: a DVD player, projector, external speakers and a white screen.

If you don’t have a projector or screen there are two ways to solve this:

  1. With the popularity of projectors it might be possible that one of your friends already has a system you can borrow. 
  2. If not, no worries: although there are projectors that are high priced, many also go for under $100. Given that you can also use a projector for watching sports, television shows, video games, slide shows or even Skype calls, the investment might just be worth it. Then add a simple projector with an input for your DVD and output for sound.

Also, don’t let the thought of having to buy a white screen hold you back. A white screen can be as simple as a white sheet or a nice white wall. If you opt for the sheet as your screen of choice then tie a rope to your sheet and tautly tie it to walls or trees. If you want to ensure your sheet provides you with the best viewing experience, you could also create your own blackout cloth by adding a black sheet behind your original white one. 

Pro-tip: Make sure you start setting up earlier in the day, so when the sun finally sets, you’re ready to enjoy your movie!

Step 2: Seating arrangements

Backyard Movie Night Seating Arrangement

Once you’ve gotten your outdoor entertainment system in order you can start focusing on the seating arrangements. Since it’s a movie you’ll be showing you will want your guests to feel as relaxed as possible. To do this, simulate stadium seating arrangements by making one aisle of seats lower than the one behind it.

In the seating section nearest to the screen, set up a lounging area with blankets and pillows on the grass; the second “row” can consist of regular chairs that can be spread out across your backyard. If you happen to have a lot of guests planning to come over, and have low gardening or beach chairs available, use them to add another row of seats. These will go between the lounging area and the regular-sized chairs. 

Pro-tip: A good idea for guests who will be lounging on the grass is to set up old wooden crates next to them so they can use them as a safe place for their food and drinks. 

 Step 3: A-list snacks

Backyard Movie Night Snack Table

Outdoor Movie Night Snack Ideas

Backyard Movie Night Snack Ideas

Watching movies with no snacks to munch on just doesn’t feel right—especially if no popcorn is involved. For an outdoor movie night, make your party menu as snack-based as possible. Since it will probably begin to get dark outside by the time all your guests arrive (make sure to have all snacks laid out prior to the sun going down), the last thing you want is for people to be fumbling around in the dark with full-course meals on their plates. Below is a list of recipes that will satisfy all sorts of palettes and different age groups:

Marshmallow Popcorn Bar with Chocolate CandiesMarshmallow Popcorn Bar with Chocolate Candies

Mold melted marshmallows and popcorn into the perfect snack bar. Did we mention they’re topped with chocolate candies?

Buffalo-Style Hot Popcorn Snack

Buffalo-Style Hot Popcorn Snack

For those with a savory tooth this is the ideal snack. Spice up the night by combining popcorn, corn nuts, and roasted peanuts into a bowl and adding a little hot sauce and mustard. Add a little wedge of lemon to give it a little extra citrusy kick. 

Peanut Butter Popcorn Munch

Peanut Butter Popcorn Munch

Snack overload! This delicious snack blends together popcorn and pretzels, which are then drizzled with melted peanut butter, and topped with sweet and sour rock candy and chocolate wafer candy. 

Corndog Waffles

Corndog Waffles Recipe

Talk about a treat! Serve this carnival favorite and delight your film-loving family and friends. 

Step 4: Let the good flicks roll

Selecting a Movie from a Box of Movies

Now comes the easy part: picking the movie! Your choice should depend on the crowd you’ve invited over. If it’s a movie night for your little ones and their friends, let them make the decision for you and just “let it go.” But if it’s your friends, go for classics like the one about the serial killer shark, or the movie that has a little dirty dancing in it, or what about the one with the cute extraterrestrial who wants to go home? The choice is yours.

Fun tip: If you really want to make the night extra special try to include movie trailers from films that came out around the same time as the one you chose.

Backyard Movie Night with the Family


Photos for our outdoor movie night were provided by Ericka Sanchez of Nibbles and Feasts.