How to Host an Outdoor Family Movie Night

family activities outdoor movie night summer fun

   We are in that magic window of June when the summer nights are short (and still cool) and our kids are not quite sick of us yet! It’s the perfect opportunity to start a new family tradition of outdoor movie night. And with the pandemic closing theaters, many summer blockbusters are now available through streaming. Plus, it’s just fun to watch a movie under the stars!

This article will offer a few ideas on how to create your family outdoor movie night from super easy to a little more advanced.

Set Up Your Outdoor Theater

Depending on your budget and skillset, you can really go crazy and tech this up. But remember, this is an experience not a recreation of an actual movie theater! Your kids will remember the fun and not whether the picture was crystal clear.

Start by choosing a site without a lot of other lights, somewhere sort of quiet so you can hear the sound, a place you can all sit comfortably, and be conscious of your neighbors. Here are a few options for the tech side of outdoor movie night with their pros and cons:

Easy: Move your flatscreen TV outside

This is obviously the quickest set up but requires possibly dismantling your indoor AV set up. You will need access to an outlet and cable (or WiFi/streaming capabilities) and a sturdy place to set or hang your TV.

Easy but expensive: Buy an outdoor TV

These can be expensive but you can permanently install them in your outdoor space. These also need access to outlets and cable or streaming services (or hook up a DVD player).

More Advanced: Use a projector

Just like in the office, you can stream movies through a projector onto a screen, a blank wall, or a white sheet hung on a line. And, of course, that point of light from the projector really gives the movie theater experience. Inexpensive projectors typically are connected through cords (so make sure it’s compatible with your device) but you can also find Bluetooth-friendly projectors. Check online auction sites as you can usually find good used equipment. Some libraries offer projector rentals on a daily basis.

Even More Advanced: Add a sound system and professional screen

The more expensive projectors come with more bells and whistles such as Bluetooth connection, better resolution and adjustments, and remote controls. You can also boost your sound quality by connecting an external, wireless speaker and positioning it under the screen. In addition, an actual screen designed for projections will give better resolution and is more stable (yes, that old roll down screen in the basement will work).

No matter how advanced you go with a projector just make sure it’s compatible with your video source.

Go Old School: Pull Out the Vintage Reel to Reel Projector

When was the last time you looked at old home movies? Your kids would love to see them and this is a great time to dig them out of storage. Some libraries still offer rental of old cameras and you can also find them on online auction shopping sites.

Make it Comfy

Pile on the pillows and blankies so you can all settle in for the night. If you’re setting up on concrete or hard decking, add a little extra cushion underneath. Try low beach chairs for a fun way to stretch out your legs. Add a few low tables for holding beverages and snacks. Light a few bug candles and have bug spray on hand for those uninvited guests.

Create a lighted walkway from your viewing area to your house (or give the kids flashlights) so everyone can safely navigate back and forth.

Load Up on the Best Movie Snacks

Now is the perfect time to have popcorn for dinner! But don’t settle for just any snack. Choose a wide variety of healthy snacks for everyone’s tastes. (Hint: your kids won’t know that chickpeas are good for them, they just like the taste!) We have a few suggestions here.

Pick a Movie Everyone Loves

Go for a classic comedy or adventure film, nothing too deep or dramatic. And again, remember the neighbors can see your movie – be kind and pick a G- or PG-rating. Make it fun for little kids and print up movie tickets, make a ticket booth or concession stand, and ask them if they’d like to go on a “movie date” with you. Let the kids pick the movie and enjoy this precious family time together.


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