How to build an outdoor cinema at home

outdoor cinema

Phoebe Craw

Posted December 22, 2021

This summer, catch up on the latest blockbusters that you missed during lockdown - all from the comfort and safety of your own home.

While the long winter has kept us dreaming of the summer months, the thermostat is finally rising, and now is the time to start planning some fun. With warm nights and clear skies heading our way, why not catch up on the movies we’ve missed (or want to enjoy again) with your own outdoor cinema?

Have no fear, you don't need to be a tech whiz or a cinema manager to bring Hollywood to your home, it’s actually a fairly simple process; you just need a few simple things to get rolling.

Bring Hollywood home

The perfect spot

To start off, you'll need to decide where to set up your cinema. Somewhere dry and protected from the elements is a must, and somewhere that isn't exposed to too much light or sound (like streetlamps and busy roads). You might want to hang up your projector screen (more on that in a bit) on a wall or fence.

And lastly, don't forget aesthetics: choose a place that can be transformed into something magical. Nothing will kill the mood faster than the wafting odours of the compost bin.

Projector and projector screen

Here comes the key player in your outdoor setup: the projector. You might want to purchase an outdoor or portable projector, but you don't need to. Projectors that require plugs can easily be set up outside with an extension lead (just make sure to not leave it outside in the rain).

The benefit to portable projectors is that they often come with better in-built speakers and some are even battery powered. If you think you're likely to take it on camping trips and rural setups, that could be a good move.

Now comes the best supporting actor: the projector screen. In a pinch, you can pin up a white, clean, and unwrinkled bedsheet to a fence or wall, so long as it's pulled taut. But the image quality and stability will significantly improve if you invest in a proper projector screen.

Make sure the screen you choose can either be securely attached to a wall or has a sturdy frame and ground stakes (in case it gets windy).

Blow-up projector screens also provide sturdy support, but they can't be erected as easily inside for cold-weather movie nights. 

outdoor cinema

 A bedsheet or white wall can suffice as an at-home movie screen outside. Image: Getty.

The right input

Aren't we forgetting something important, like the movie? Well, you have a couple of options that will largely be determined by the projector you use.

You're likely to need a HDMI cord that can either plug into one of the ports on your computer or DVD player. Wireless HDMI transmitters also can save you from the hassle of long cords. And if you have a more modern projector, streaming sticks and external hard drives can also be quick and easy for throwing Bachelor marathons or Halloween-themed screenings for you and your friends.

Speaker time

They say that sound is half the film, and when it comes to your outdoor cinema, it is definitely true. While you can get away with the built-in speakers of your projector, Bluetooth speakers are the easiest option and can often connect straight to your projector, laptop or phone. The only issue is this can sometimes create a delay in the audio syncing.

Soundbars and other easily transportable speakers generally only need a 3.5mm audio aux cable to connect.

What about if you're enjoying a solo date night? Plugged-in headphones or ones wirelessly connected to your laptop, phone or projector will also do the trick (without disturbing the neighbours). 

A comfy setup

This is the fun part. How are you going to set up your cinema so that it's cosy, comfy, and Instagram-able? A groundsheet with blankets, cushions, and beanbags can make a great floor cuddle-puddle. You could also go the cinema classic and set up rows of deck chairs.

Fairy lights can add that extra touch of ambiance - just don't forget to turn them off as the movie starts.

Need to get out of the house and see the real deal? 
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