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outdoor theatre

There are people who watch movies, and then there are movie buffs. I’m the latter.

For us buffs, movietime is not time wasted. It’s life, story, music, art, and fun, all packed into one exciting medium. Whether it’s belting out “As Time Goes By” while you swoon at Bogie and Bergman in Casablanca or you’re the type who believes eating Reece’s Pieces is mandatory if you’re watching E.T., movie love is a deep and lasting thing.

It’s no wonder, then, that as drive-in movies slowly disappear from our culture, more and more of us are turning to the outdoors for a summer movie experience.

Every city seems to have large outdoor movie events in the summer, and now folks are rigging up their backyards for movie parties too.

If you’re a hardcore movie lover, maybe this is the summer you create the ultimate outdoor cinema.

The setting and the tech

You’ll have to research what you want to use. All kinds of projectors exist. With WiFi, Bluetooth, solar power options – there’s a lot you can do to rig up your yard for the flicks.

Then there’s the screen. Here, too, you have many ways to go. From hanging a sheet to using the side of your home, buying a proper screen or improvising your own via stretching canvas between two trees, there’s no shortage of solutions.

Your projector’s abilities and the place/type/size of your screen will largely dictate where your cinema goes.

Now that you’ve decided that, you’ll need to decide how permanent an installation you want.

All the world’s a stage

If you really want to commit, why not stage an outdoor living room? With a well-thought wood platform with some 2-foot walls or railings, around a couple sides, and a bunch of all-weather pillows, it’s easy to imagine everyone sitting casually against the walls or lying down to enjoy some popcorn fare in an outdoor “living room”.

Give it some structure by way of posts or a trellis, and you can create a lot of atmosphere. String some lights around it, add some padding to lie on, or make built-in perimeter benches, scatter tables or trays for drinks and snacks, and settle in for a casual movie experience for all.

Getting benched

For seating for many, benches are a portable, adjustable solution to accommodate a crowd. From plain old wood benches to more elaborately padded ones, it’s easy to be flexible with the layout. Consider rows like outdoor auditoriums have, or put them in a horseshoe shape so you can have a bonfire in the middle while Goonies plays to the delight of all ages on the screen ahead.

If ground moisture is an issue where you are, benches extend the “outdoor movie” season considerably, while being something you can get out of the way when not needed.

Beach-blanket bingo?

Even having an abundance of blankets, or asking guests to bring some, can make a lawn a comfortable place to be. Instead of worrying about seating options, you can instead focus on making a great screen to watch things on.

String lovely lights through trees to keep a little light around for safety and create some magical mood. If there’s too much nearby light, you can shield your screen by hanging fabrics to block out light while bringing style to the space. Think airy light fabrics for a breezy environment, or get dramatic with big bold colors to bring a funky or primal flare.

With lighting, it’s just as flexible. Tiki torches, Mason jar candles, and solar-powered lamps are all terrific options to keep the area comfortable and safe while the movie plays.

Grass will absorb spills, but not until well after the movie’s over. If the grass is uneven, provide surfaces for beverages and snacks. Consider everything from milk crates to log stumps as potential mini-tables to hold two to four glasses.

Easy if you want it to be

Our wireless technologies and streaming sites like Netflix mean the possibilities for a home theater outdoors go way, way beyond what we grew up with. No more rickety projectors and ugly old bed sheets. With a well-strung screen and a couple dozen great people around, the viewing options are endless. Bring a beverage, bring a chair, and the movie’s ready to go.

In the end, you can get as fancy as you like, but the all that really matters is that folks can see and hear the movie. If you play it, they will come. Hooray for Hollywood!

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.