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18 Essentials You Need for an Outdoor Movie Night in Your Backyard or on Your Roof

It may be the stuff of Pinterest dreams, but it’s totally achievable!

backyard outdoor movie

Whether it's a block party or an intimate date night, there's just something dreamy about watching a movie under the stars. It takes a little preparation and some purchasing power to lay the foundation for your first screening, but it's an investment that's well worth the time and expense. You'll need a projector with enough power to shine through the light pollution in your area and, of course, a surface to project the movie onto. Depending on your projector's capabilities, you may want to boost the volume with speakers, too.

While you could project onto a flat wall, fence, or bed sheet, there's no doubt about it — you'll get the best picture quality with a screen. First, assess your space's access to a power source to decide if you want an inflatable or pulldown screen. Then figure out what surface you'll be sitting on, so you know how the screen can be stabilized. An inflatable screen, for example, will need a power source for its fan and grass or dirt for the stakes that support it.

Once you have the tech angles figured out, add in layers of comfort so that you and your guests can sit through a 2-hour movie without aching backs or bug attacks. Consider who is in your audience when you're deciding on seating. Adults will want supportive beach chairs or outdoor loungers, while kids can be comfy on the ground with blankets and pillows.

Keep the citronella burning to ward off mosquitoes, and turn on a few outdoor lights so guests can get up and move about safely. Of course, no movie theater is complete without a concession stand. Load up on popcorn and snacks, and keep your drinks close and cold with a stocked cooler and insulated cups.

From the readymade to the DIY, you have lots of options for how to set up your perfect outdoor movie night at home. We've picked our favorite items to make it easy to start your screening under the stars.

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1 Anker Nebula Capsule Wifi Projector
Anker amazon.com

First things first: You’re going to need a projector, and since you're outside, a portable option is your best bet. Anker's Nebula Capsule is our tech editor Brandon Carte's pick for the best affordable option. It has all the qualities you need for an outdoor theater. 

With a 100 ANSI lumens bulb and an 854-by-480 resolution, the video quality will be best at night on a screen up to 100 inches. If your Wi-Fi doesn't cover where you're screening, you can tether a device with the HDMI or USB ports. 

It has a decent built-in speaker, a manual focus, and a 3- to 4-hour charge window. Most impressively, it's the size of a soda can!

More: These Portable Projectors Turn Any Wall Into a Movie Theater Screen

2 Yamaha NS-AW150BL 2-Way Indoor/Outdoor Speakers
Yamaha Audio amazon.com

While some projectors come with a built-in speaker, consider adding a pair of speakers to your setup for clearer projection. This wired set from Yamaha comes with mounting brackets and delivers a decent sound performance for an affordable price.

Our senior tech editor Stefan Vazharov writes, “Each mountable speaker features a 5-inch woofer and a half-inch tweeter that deliver a good audio experience, so long as you manage your expectations accordingly.”

Just be sure to have the right connector cables to your device and to invite your neighbors to the booming party!

3 100-in Projector Screen with Stand
SKERELL amazon.com

If you don't have a wall to project on and you're not up for a DIY project, you're going to need a projector screen

For outdoor use, you'll want to look for a screen with sturdy support that won't sway in the breeze. This one has detachable legs and four additional stakes to prevent any billowing. It's about 7.5 feet wide with a 16:9 aspect ratio that can also handle rear projection. 

The teardown is easy: Bugs and gunk can be wiped down with a damp cloth, and the components fit neatly into a carrying case weighing in at a total weight of about 6 pounds.

4 Gemmy Inflatable Movie Screen
Gemmy amazon.com

Go for an inflatable screen if you have access to a nearby power source and want to be able to store it in a smaller space. When inflated with the fan that's included, this screen measures 12 feet wide with a 16:9 aspect ratio. 

Note that the fan will have to run the entire time you have the screen up, but reviewers say it's only about as loud as a typical box fan. This one is best for a grass or dirt area since it comes with a set of stakes and clips to secure it into the ground, much like a tent. 

5 Ultimate Ears MEGABOOM 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Ultimate Ears amazon.com

Don't underestimate the importance of sound during your outdoor movie night! A portable Bluetooth speaker will give your audience the right volume boost at an intimate outdoor movie screening. The UE MEGABOOM 3 is a best-seller in our Bluetooth speaker buying guide for having an “eye-catching design, a tough build, an excellent rating for water resistance, [and] fantastic audio quality.”

Once connected to the device that you're streaming the movie from, you'll have up to 20 hours of battery life to work with.

6 Zero Gravity Chair Patio Lounge Recliners
FDW amazon.com

While it's fun to picnic on the ground, comfort is the key to enjoying a 2-hour movie outside. Get up off the ground and into one of these zero-gravity loungers. Kick back in the recliner with your favorite person next to you, then fold them up for easy transport and storage when you're done.

More: The Best Beach Chairs for Comfortable All-Day Lounging

7 Outdoor Lounger Bean Bag Chair
iOCHOW amazon.com

Outdoor floor pillows look cute, but you'll want a little extra neck and back support to sit through a whole movie. Kids and adults can snuggle up on this adult-sized bean bag chair and see the screen comfortably. And if you want to bring it inside for gaming or reading, you can unzip the lining to throw it in the wash.

8 Kids Fold Out Lounger
Butterfly Craze amazon.com

If you're inviting kids to the screening, let them stretch out on these padded loungers. Fill the five slots with queen-sized pillows first, then lay it flat or roll it up for cozy viewing. After the movie, repurpose them for sleepovers, naps, and playroom fun. 

9 Vintage Tabletop Popcorn Maker
Nostalgia amazon.com

Impress your guests with real concession stand popcorn. This countertop-sized, vintage-looking popcorn maker requires a power source to plug in but can make up to 12 cups in one batch. 

The popcorn is air-popped, so you won't need to add any oil to make it. Simply add butter, salt, and any seasoning after it's popped to perfect your at-home movie theatre popcorn.

10 4-Pack of Classic Plastic Popcorn Containers
Novelty Place amazon.com

Yes, a bowl will hold your popcorn just fine. But if you're going all out on the movie night, these reusable plastic popcorn containers totally nail the charming movie theatre vibe. Each guest can have their own serving to season as they choose. But you'll want to hand-wash these so that their retro design lasts.

11 Thermacell Radius Zone Mosquito Repellent
Thermacell amazon.com

With people, snacks, and projector lights flashing, you're bound to run into some mosquitos during your outdoor movie screening. Thermacell's Radius Zone keeps the bugs at bay by emitting a 15-foot scent-free barrier of the chemical metofluthrin. 

Our technology editor, Brandon Carte, tried it out and raves that it’s “an easy-to-operate device that’s rechargeable, easy to refill, and wonderfully effective at repelling mosquitoes.” No bug spray, no problem!

12 Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks
Murphy's Naturals amazon.com

If you're not into a mosquito-repellent gadget, these incense sticks will do the trick on a budget. Each incense stick burns for 2.5 hours and will cover a 12-foot area so you and your guests won't have to swat at mosquitoes throughout the movie. 

13 Portable Folding Side Table
TREKOLOGY amazon.com

You're going to need a surface or two to rest your projector, laptop, snacks, and drinks on. 

This best-selling camping table is super budget-friendly and is made of durable aluminum that can stay out in the elements. The small size is 13 inches high, perfect for both the guests on the ground and in beach chairs. It folds down flat and weighs less than 2 pounds, so it’s a great option for picnics and hikes, too.

14 Extra Large Waterproof Blanket

Set the stage with an outdoor blanket that can stand to get a little dirt on it. You can comfortably fit four adults on this 87x67-inch oversized blanket. One side is a soft acrylic, and the other is a leak-proof plastic that can sit on top of dewy grass with no problem. The belted strap makes it easy to carry and store when you're done.

15 LED Solar Ground Lights
INCX amazon.com

You'll have to wait until it's dark for optimal outdoor movie-projection quality, but you don't want it to be so dark that you can't move around safely. Light up a path from the viewing area to the bathroom or snack area with these solar garden lights that stick right into the ground without any wires. 

16 Stainless Steel Stemless Wine Glass Tumbler with Lid
Maars Drinkware amazon.com

Avoid sweating glasses and keep your drinks cool with an insulated stainless steel cup. This set of wine tumblers will hold 12 ounces of your liquid of choice, hot or cold. Plus, the lids make for easy spillproof sipping and can also accommodate a straw.

17 Pipcorn Heirloom Mini Popcorn 3-Pack
Pipcorn amazon.com

Give your snack bar a healthier option with a bag or two of Pipcorn's heirloom popcorn. Every batch is preservative- and GMO-free with 40% less fat than other packaged popcorn. There's something savory for everyone at your screening with this variety pack that offers both sea salt and truffle flavor. 

More: 15 Standout Black-Owned Food and Drink Brands You Need to Know About

18 Igloo Stainless Steel Cooler
Igloo amazon.com

Set up a drinks station, so you don't have to run inside every time you need a refill. Fill this classic stainless steel cooler with ice and your favorite hard seltzer to get your adult guests' buzz on. It can hold up to 54 drinks and even has a built-in bottle opener.

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