How to Create an Awesome Backyard Movie Theater

A few years ago my five year old wanted to have a movie themed birthday party. I couldn’t imagine having all of her classmates in our small home, so we explored having another backyard birthday party. We own a projector and have speakers for our stereo system, so the only thing missing was a movie screen.

Must haves for Outdoor Movies:

  1. A way to stream the movie
  2. Projector
  3. Movie screen (fabric, side of your house, garage door or inflatable movie screen)
  4. Audio

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Outdoor Movie Screen

At our old house, we had a giant piece of fabric mounted to 2×4’s that we used to hang from the front of our two story house and project football games on for neighborhood viewing parties. This is an amazing and super affordable solution, but it doesn’t work in our new location, even when we made some modifications.

I looked in to renting an inflatable movie screen that I had seen used at pool parties at the public pools, but the cost to rent them was much higher than the price to own my very own.

We settled on the Airblown Inflatable Movie Screen because it’s well rated and the price is right if you see yourself using it a few times. Plus, once people know you own one, they all want to borrow it. You might even have some luck getting one from, I found the same Inflatable Movie Screen on for $130. Not only does this work like a charm, but it comes with a duffle bag for storage. Set-up and tear down take about 10-15 minutes but are painless.

Best Projector for Outdoor Movies

You can find some great projectors online starting at around $50. We have an Epson WXGA HDMI and we’ve used it for 7 years with no problems at all. We paid about $600 for it when we purchased it, but there are some projectors that get even better ratings that aren’t as expensive. The GooDee Outdoor Movie Projector is highly rated and less than $200.

Be sure that the device you plan on streaming movies from is compatible with whichever projector you purchase.

Streaming Outdoor Movies

Your internet connection will be very important when streaming your outdoor movies. Be sure that your wireless connection can reach where you plan on setting up, or make arrangements to go wired or move your router or wifi access point. We stream from our Roku using our Netflix account, Hulu or Disney+, but you can just as easily stream from a PS4, Firestick or other device.

Audio and Speakers

If you have an existing stereo system or any large size speaker system, you can probably find a solution that works. After 2 summers of using our home stereo system, we opted to purchase a designated speaker for showing movies. We love this bluetooth speaker from Gemini. Ours gets used at events, it has a microphone and it’s perfect for showing movies in the backyard. If our children continue to love backyard movie watching, we’ll likely invest in a second speaker for even better sound.

Some projectors have an audio output, but if yours does not, you’ll need a few extra pieces to make it work.

Your streaming device plugs into an HDMI splitter, like this one. One output goes to your projector and the other one goes to your HDMI compatible speaker. If your speaker doesn’t have HDMI, you’ll want an HDMI to RCA converter like this one. Then run a set of red and white RCA cables to your speaker. If your speaker needs a 1/8th inch auxiliary input, they make a cable for that too.

Snacks for Outdoor Movies

One of the best parts about movies at home is that you can eat whatever you want! We eat our dinner outside as the movie begins and then of course we use our popcorn maker to make popcorn.

Seating for Outdoor Movies

We ask our friends to bring their own chairs or picnic blankets. Our family will usually just drag our lawn furniture out and relax.


11 thoughts on “How to Create an Awesome Backyard Movie Theater”

  1. Katy, have you checked on the legality of showing copyrighted movies in a public setting? I wanted to do this for the neighborhood kids and was told it was illegal.

    1. We aren’t showing it for a group at an event, this is for our family. Also, I’m 99% sure you can show movies at something like a birthday party in your home. In a public space with a large crowd, that’s when you need to pay a licensing fee. I know that when they are showing them later this month at the fairgrounds, they are paying a licensing fee. But, when you have friends over to watch movies at your house, it’s a totally different thing. Hope this helps.

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