Who says you have to cram the kids into the car and purchase expensive movie tickets? You can avoid the movie theater lines and set up your own cinema in the comfort of your backyard for an evening the whole family will enjoy. Not only will this fun DIY idea spark some creativity among kids and adults, but it might also be the start of an unforgettable family tradition. Customize your movie experience and make the most of summer with these DIY backyard movie night ideas.
Coming up with new kid-friendly summer activities can be hard, especially after the first few weeks of summer break roll by and the kids start to complain of boredom. Try something new with a backyard movie night, which can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. Depending on how much time and money you want to spend, you could host a big 4th of July event where you invite friends and neighbors, embrace the movie night theme for your kid’s birthday party, or simply make it a day-of-activity for everyone in the family to help put together, then enjoy the fruits of your labor once the sun goes down.
Ready to plan an award-worthy backyard movie night? We’re sharing tips for how to set up a DIY screen and cozy seating arrangements, plus creative ideas for serving movie snacks and summer drinks for kids and adults. Then, all you have to do is sit back and select a movie to watch – which admittedly might be the most difficult part.
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While you can certainly buy an outdoor movie screen for your backyard, it’s also easy to set up your own DIY version with items you already have laying around the house. For this setup, you will need a shower rod, two plant hangers, and a white curtain or sheet. Mount the rod between the hangers and straighten the curtain so the film will be projected without any distortions.
… Or Purchase a Portable Projector Screen
Alternatively, you can buy a portable (and foldable) projector screen for less than $ 100. This one by Getco Tech makes movie night easy and luxurious with a seamless setup process that takes just a few minutes and a 100-inch screen that has a 160 degree viewing angle. There are no tools required, plus the frame can be folded down to fit into an included carrier bag, which means you can have movie night in your backyard or at a campsite.
Gather Your Outdoor Theater Seating and Tables
Once you have the basics (a screen and projector), then you can have fun transforming your backyard into the outdoor movie theater of your dreams. If you have outdoor chairs or couches, dust them off and bring them out for the season if you haven’t already done so. Or, splurge on a classic Adirondack chair that will look great by your movie screen as well as in your backyard on a regular summer afternoon.
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Mix and Match Cozy Blankets and Pillows
Have the kids go on a scavenger hunt around the home gathering outdoor-friendly blankets, poufs, small rugs, pillows, and even pool floats. The best part about using seating you already have is that you don’t have to buy anything extra to create a cozy space perfect for a movie marathon. If you’d rather not put your best linens in the grass, though, you can also pick up some outdoor blankets that will get plenty of use at park picnics and more.
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Hang Up Movie Night Decorations
After you have the general layout of your movie seats (and blankets) set up facing the screen, you can strategize where to set up string lights, hanging planters, or anything else you want to incorporate for an extra personal touch. If you are screening a specific movie for a birthday party or holiday, consider decorating your backyard to match the theme!
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Pack a Picnic Table with Snacks
Everyone has their go-to movie snack they purchase at the concession stand before heading to their seat. Whether it’s sour candy or buttery popcorn, you can easily offer these same goodies (for less money!) At your backyard movie night. Toss your family’s favorite candies into a bowl or set up a s’mores stand with graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars. Want to have dinner outdoors before the show? Try making some of these easy picnic recipes.
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Incorporate Individual Portable Concession Stands
Whether you have a smaller crowd gathering for a backyard movie night, or you just want to make it easy for you and the kids to enjoy your snacks and drinks while watching the movie, having a portable “concession stand” (aka a food tray with legs) is a smart hack for your outdoor cinema layout. Use the same trays you would use for breakfast in bed, or find an affordable set on Amazon if you don’t have some already.
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Set Up a Self-Serve Popcorn Stand
Here’s another adorable idea for getting creative with materials you likely already have. To add this easy DIY snack stand to your movie mix, simply clothespin paper popcorn bags to a trellis. Ta-da! Self-serve snacking that won’t disturb others watching the film.
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Hand Out Chocolate Bar Tickets
While admission into your backyard movie night is free, you’ll want to make sure all the kids have one of these punny chocolate bar “tickets” to the after party. We’ve done the work for you by creating a free template, so you just have to print, cut, paste, and enjoy.
Get the Printable Movie Night Ticket Template.
Just like everyone has their preferred movie night snack, most of us also have a favorite drink to sip on throughout the film. Upgrade the family’s soda experience with these adorable “sippy” cups that even older kids and adults will love. Attach chalkboard labels onto each mason jar and personalize with names to prevent mixups. You can also have everyone decorate their own lids as an afternoon activity that ensures no two cups look the same.
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While you can of course have regular paper straws available, why not set out these ex-straw-dinary alternatives, too? Go the extra mile and cut the tips off of licorice to create sweet sippers.
Serve Charcuterie for the Adults
While movie night can definitely be a family activity with classic Disney animated films and Marvel superhero movies, you can also turn it into an easy summer date night. Pair an award-winning picture or a few episodes of your favorite TV series with a packed charcuterie board and a pitcher of sangria for a lovely evening spent outside with your SO
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If your family’s birthday treat of choice is always cupcakes, then they will love this innovative twist on the traditional movie snack. Instead of spooning cupcake batter into liners, form gooey balls of unsalted butter, mini marshmallows, and plain air-popped popcorn, then drizzle with melted chocolate and top with sprinkles. Yum!
Get the Popcorn “Cupcakes” recipe.
Mix Some Signature Summer Drinks
It’s always smart to have liquid refreshments nearby for any summer activity, even if the one in question is more likely to occur after the sun goes down. Prepare homemade lemonade, simple cucumber water, or a special non-alcoholic concoction and sip back and enjoy.
You can even create signature cocktails and mocktails based on your movie of choice, and display a themed menu on a letter board or mini marquee sign. Need some ideas? Mix up Frozen summer slushies or serve a We Don’t Talk About BruNo-Sugar Lemonade.
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