A backyard movie theater is an attempt to recreate the traditional outdoors drive-in movie experience. It is important to make it different than the modern theater without losing all the advantages of a movie going experience. Making a backyard theater takes some doing but if it is done right, the experience will be worth the effort.
The home video projector is probably the essential equipment needed to make a backyard movie theater. There is a lot of factors that influence the decision of which projector to acquire. The amount of light a projector can output is measured in units called lumens. The more light the projector can produce, the better. 2000-3000 Lumens is suitable for any backyard theater and the purse. However, one can go higher if they desire.
Resolution is critical in the selection of a projector. Though you want a large picture, you should not sacrifice quality for size. A 1080p projector and above is applicable for a backyard movie theater. The quality of the picture will also be substantially decided by the aspect ratio the projector has. It should ideally have a 16:9 aspect ratio so that it maximizes the fit on the screen.
An adequate lens that will allow movement of the projector so that the image can fit the screen. A backyard movie theater has the advantage of size without the expense associated with a screen. The optimal projector should be able to have a significant ‘throw distance’ so that you can maximize the size of the image on the screen.
You will also want a projector that can connect on multiple fronts, i.e. you want a projector that can connect via HDMI cable, USB, etc. You will find that it is better to have more connections than you need than none at all. You may also want something compact, like a good pico projector.
The screen is an important part of the theater but is not that difficult to plan for as compared to the sound system or the projector. Given that it will not be a movie theater quality big screen, most people who will visit your backyard theater will be forgiving of the display. However, that does not mean that you should skimp out on quality.
Projection from behind the audience is the conventional way of projecting movies onto a screen but in an outdoor theater, there may be plenty of disturbances that will affect the film. Another option would be rear projection where the equipment is placed behind the screen and in front of the audience to minimize distractions.
The biggest savings regarding a backyard movie theater comes from the screen. An ironed white bed sheet will function adequately as a screen if you are on a tight budget. That is a very cheap option compared to an electronic outdoor movie screen. A blackout cloth is another great budget-friendly option. It is very cheap and durable
For the movie experience purists, there are specialized outdoor movie screens for those willing to spend more for a quality viewing experience. They may be inflatable or fixed. Both are reasonably priced for what they are, but the inflatable is often the best option for screen size. They are light and very portable.
The sound of a theater is an important an aspect of movie-going as any. Finding the right sound system for your theater should be well thought out and researched. The sound will be different in an outdoor theater than it will be in an enclosed space. The lack of sound may cause the audience to lose interest even though it may be an attractive, resolute picture. Get all the jacks you require for as many speaker connections as possible.
A surround system is the best option. Optimally it should not be less than a 5.1 surround system. The connection between the speakers is also important since they will probably be a lot of movement in your backyard. If you can get wireless speakers that can be connected via Bluetooth, it would be better than a wired connection. The speaker should clearly present speech while having enough bass and tone for music.
Food and Snacks
A movie night is not complete without soda and popcorn, or maybe some beer for those who enjoy adult beverages. You can make homemade popcorn and put it in cheap packages available online. You can even purchase a movie theater style popcorn machine and dispenser so that people can serve it themselves. Moreover, pick up a few bottles of different soda varieties and straws. Popcorn butter will also be an excellent idea for guests, albeit an unhealthy one.
To ensure everyone enjoys the movie, you have to arrange the seats in your back exquisitely. Since you will not have the option of a downward sloping theater (unless you set your backyard theater up on a hill), you should conduct some planning and keep making adjustments to your seating arrangement until you have the right fit.
You can get creative with your seats. After all, outdoor movie theaters are all about having fun. You can use old vehicles seats from different car models, e.g. trucks, saloons and sports cars mimicking a real drive-in. Or, get some inflatable seats or outdoor seating. The good news is that you can change the seats as often as you like to keep the movie experience interesting.
Lighting & Safety
People will move around in a backyard movie theater. Lighting in this scenario should strike a delicate balance. It should be enough to allow for mobility but not too much that it distracts those watching the movie. You can put torches on every seat and provide kids with fun lighting toys. Glow in the dark items usually appease the kids. Just remember to remove all potentially dangerous items to ensure minimal damage in case of an accident. A backyard movie theater is a lot of fun for a small number of friends and family. It is a communal activity and should be enjoyed as such.