As summer approaches, nothing is better than enjoying an evening and laid back attitude with an outdoor movie night. These parties can be held in a backyard or on a rooftop, depending on where you live. They bring the idea of the drive-in movie theater home and provide a great way to invite others over for an amusing night in.
Surprisingly, outdoor movie nights are easy enough to pull together. Get your hands on a few simple basics and you’ll be ready to go. Projector, movie, screen, snacks, and beverages are all you need to put together a successful and fun evening.
Want to take it a step further? Take it up a notch with all kinds of enjoyable extras like self-serve drink stations, concession stands, and snack tables. To round it all out, just add in your movie-watching favorites.
(And the honest truth? You could do all of this indoors too, if you want – just be sure to add a bit of creative flair to give it that drive-in movie night feel!)
Pick a Theme and Set the Stage
Most important, first you must decide on a theme for your outdoor movie night. A theme sets a mood for the night. It helps give you direction on what movie to show and what food and drinks to serve. I put together a few of my favorites to get you started.
Tropical: Ladies, wear a flower behind your ear while offering guests a a fruity drink like a tea sangria. Have skewers of pineapple, mango, papaya, and kiwi for guests to nibble on. Offer Hurricane Popcorn for guests during the movie.
Movie Suggestions: Blue Hawaii, South Pacific, 50 First Dates, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or Honeymoon in Vegas. This is my personal favorite theme.
‘80s Night: Setup an iced tea bar with cocktail and mocktail mix-ins. Have fun finger foods like seven-layer dip, teriyaki chicken wings, and artichoke dip served in a bread bowl. Don’t forget the ‘80s candies: Pop Rocks, Ring Pops, and Razzles.
Movie Suggestions: The Goonies, Breakfast Club, Heathers, Pretty in Pink, and Say Anything.
Hoedown: Set up a self-serve chili station with an assortment of toppings. Lynchburg Lemonade and Southern sweet tea will keep your guests refreshed all night long. When the movie’s over, light up a bonfire and roast some marshmallows for s’mores.
Movie Suggestions: Young Guns, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, River of No Return, Blazing Saddles, and Django Unchained.
Adult Slumber Party: Ask your guests to bring their sleeping bags and a flash light. Show scary movies like you watched at the slumber parties you had as a child, only this time, it’s under the stars. Serve gourmet pizzas paired with wine, spiked hot tea and toddies, herbal teas, and all your other favorite slumber party foods from your youth.
Movie Suggestions: Scream, Nightmare on Elm Street, Carrie, The Shining, and The Ring.
Traditional: Buttered popcorn in paper bags, Twizzlers, Junior Mints, Raisinets, hot dogs, and nachos will make you think you are heading into a real movie theater. Anything goes for which movie to watch. You could even do a double feature.
Provide Comfy Seating
Next, decide how you will have your guests sit. Will you be providing blankets and pillows, chairs, or asking guests to bring their own? I like to provide an assortment of all. Set up a pile of blankets and pillows for guests to help themselves, and have chairs already waiting in advance in front of the screening area. When inviting guests, I also let them know they are welcome to bring anything that will help make them more comfortable for the duration of the movie.
Set Up a Movie Screen
There are many options when it comes to setting up your movie screen. You can use a collapsible screen, large white wall, or make your own. I just tack a white sheet to a wall outside whenever I have outdoor movie nights. One time, for a community party I helped throw, I used a collapsible screen. Both worked great! Regardless of which option you choose, you will want to set it up in a location with low light to make the projection visible.
You will also need a laptop or DVD player, projector, and speakers. An easy way to save some money is to borrow a projector from another. Ask around; you might be surprised how many people own them. Another option is to see if you can check them out from your local school or library, or even rent a projector.
Spending time with friends, eating, and watching movies are all better outdoors. So grab some organic corn for popping, and throw together an effortless outdoor movie night this summer! You’ll be happy you did.
All photos courtesy of the author.