Summer nights are made for magical experiences, and what better way to create lasting memories with your loved ones than by hosting the perfect backyard movie night? Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply seeking a cozy and unique entertainment option for your entire gang, an outdoor movie night is sure to delight everybody, young or old, on your guest list.
Not sure where to start as you go about organizing your backyard movie-fest? Here are some tips and tricks that can make sure your experiment in outdoor cinema is an unmitigated triumph.
Set the Stage for Success
The number one key to a great backyard movie night is making sure that you have the perfect set-up. The initial investment might cost you a few dollars, but you’ll be able to use the equipment you buy now over and over again.
Let’s dive into the details of what you need to make movie nights work. The basics include:
- An Audio-Visual Setup: You should start with a quality outdoor projector and screen for the best experience. You also need a decent set of speakers, so invest in audio equipment that you are sure will deliver clear sound throughout the yard.
- Blankets and Chairs: You may be able to scavenge enough folding chairs, camp chairs, bean bags, pillows and blankets to avoid buying any new ones – and it’s perfectly okay to ask your guests to bring their own seating.
- Tables and Trays: You can’t have a movie night without snacks, right? At a minimum, you want to have at least one large table for food and drinks. Trays are optional, but they can make it a lot easier to keep food and drinks from spilling.
- An Element of Ambiance: Atmosphere counts for a lot, so create a festive aura around your backyard with strings of fairy lights, paper lanterns or tiki torches.
Finally, don’t forget about bug control! It is impossible to focus on enjoying a movie when you’re frantically slapping mosquitoes away. To avoid this unwanted intrusion, invest in a few citronella candles or have on hand some insect repellent that you can share with your guests.
Feed Your Friends and Family
The perfect movie night includes fun food and lots of snack options. You can customize these ideas to fit the occasion (and your tastes):
- A Popcorn and Candy Bar: You probably have your personal favorites when you hit the concession stand at an actual theater – and so does everybody on your guest list. Set up individual bags of popcorn on your snack table and consider splurging on a deluxe pack of movie theater candy boxes for your guests to enjoy (trust us — Snocaps, Twizzlers and SweeTarts remain perennial favorites regardless of age).
- Snack Platters and Charcuterie Boards: If you like prepping lots of creative little morsels for your guests, this is your time to shine. Finger food, like nachos, veggie sticks, hot dogs, bite-sized brownies and a charcuterie board will get rave reviews from adults and kids alike.
- Signature Drinks: While you should definitely have plenty of water, soda and lemonade around, you may want to offer your grown-up guests something a little more “adult” in nature. You can create a signature drink that complements your movie selection (like a Bloody Mary for a horror flick or a pink Cosmo for a romance movie) — or just put together a light summer sangria that covers all the bases.
What if you don’t have time or energy to cook on top of setting everything up? Well, you can always go with that old standby of many summer gatherings — pizza. Call up someplace local and place a delivery order. We’re sure your guests won’t mind!
Make Your Movie Selection with Care
Choosing the right movie is crucial for a successful backyard movie night. You know your guests better than anybody, but we do have a few suggestions.
If you have a broad mix of ages coming, stick with family-friendly classics, like:
- “The Incredibles” (2004): What happens when superheroes have to lay down their capes and pretend to be ordinary people? What happens when they stop pretending so they can save the world? This one is good for all ages.
- “Moana” (2016): This is a story of a young heroine who sets out to fulfill an ancient quest and find her own identity, which can resonate with almost anybody.
- “The Princess Bride” (1987): This classic has pirates, princesses, evil kings, giants and swordsmen – and rodents of unusual size. What’s not to love?
- “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982): This blast from the past is sure to hit the strings of nostalgia for your older guests while delighting younger viewers who may not have yet been introduced to the Reese’s Pieces-munching alien and his buddy Elliot.
- “Jurassic Park” (1993): This is one of those films that transformed the industry and it put an entire franchise in motion – although it’s generally not suitable for the youngest viewers.
All these movies offer a mix of adventure, humor and heart that the whole family can enjoy. But you can always go in another direction entirely. If you and your guests are fans of cult-classic movies, here are a few that you might want to consider:
- “Night of the Living Dead” (1968): This is the George A. Romero classic that redefined the horror genre and made the word “zombie” part of the American lexicon. It follows a small group of survivors who land in a farmhouse together while there’s a flesh-eating horde outside.
- “Tremors” (1990): You can’t really take this one too seriously, but this film still delivers the requisite thrills and chills (along with plenty of laughs) as it follows the residents of a desert town besieged on all sides by hungry, prehistoric worms.
- “The Thing” (1982): Okay, we’re not going to lie: This one is scary. John Carpenter’s sci-fi /horror flick about a shape-shifting alien and a remote Antarctic research station is full of tension and chills.
- “Alien” (1979): Despite its age, the special effects of Ridley Scott’s science fiction horror masterpiece have held up surprisingly well over time. Everybody should experience this landmark film at least once in their lives.
- “The Fly” (1986): This Cronenberg film is a remake of a much older flick, but it is infinitely horrifying to watch the gruesome transformation of the central character into something far from human.
Depending on how much effort (or money) you want to invest, this kind of event can be very fancy or entirely low-key. You can repeat it with different themes, different food and different movies if you decide to make it a regular thing. Either way, hosting a backyard movie night is a great way to bring your loved ones together to make memories and have a blast!