There’s just something about a classic movie and a warm, summer evening that go together so darn well. But these days, Drive-in theaters approach quasi-extinction (and who really wants to crane their neck around the headrest and steering wheel anyway?)
And not everyone can just traipse on down to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery or the Bryant Park Film Festival in NYC. And why haul your cookies (and folding chairs and blankets …and…and…) all the way downtown when there’s a much simpler way without leaving the comfort of home. Rather, with summer breezing in, now’s the perfect time to start planning a movie night party in your own backyard for a few friends. I’ve rustled up a few ideas and tips to make yours go off without a hitch:
Throwing an outdoor movie night doesn’t have to require a lot of stuff or be expensive, but it does need a little planning ahead to make sure everyone enjoys themselves. Here’s your list of essentials, check the box as you go and you’ll be munching popcorn to the sounds of Ferris Bueller lip-syncing to the Beatles in no time!
1) Pick the right spot You’ll want to find a spot—could be a backyard, patio, porch, garage—where you can control the amount of light at night (in other words, don’t plan one in your backyard if there’s a bright streetlight that could dim the sun). Not everyone has a backyard, so get creative with your space!
2) Assemble the right equipment Your basic essentials are a movie player (your own DVD player or laptop), a screen or side of a house, a projector and a sound system. Don’t let that intimidate you; it’s easier to set up than you think. And don’t let the price or technology scare you away; you can either borrow/check out a projector from the office or rent one from your local AV store. I’m a huge proponent of using found objects rather than buying them. For the screen, scrounge up a few old white sheets or painters dropcloth, 2X4X12’ boards, some tent spikes and rope and VOILA! A quick and easy, reusable outdoor movie screen. Didn’t catch that the first time? Here’s a handy tutorial from Under the Sycamore for more detail.
3) Duh. Make sure you’ve got a good movie Consider the crowd that will be coming and choose accordingly; it is an underestimated art to accurately perceive the exact movie that will please everyone. It could be a classic, something family-friendly or a great comedy. For some reason, a campy 80s flick I wouldn’t consider for more than 5 seconds on cable sounds just about perfect sprawled out under the stars. I’m thinking about you, Clark Grizwold. And, ooo, the Swayz…I’ll carry a watermelon for you any day!
4) Accommodate with comfortable seating You don’t have to go out and buy fancy outdoor seating, but comfort is paramount! Blankets are the bare minimum, but I want to snuggle, recline, virtually submerge myself in a sea of plushness. I’ve been known to drag every pillow in the house out on the lawn, saving the prettiest pillows for myself. Also, think about tiered seating if your audience encompasses more than 6-8 people; pillows and blankets in front, folding chairs near the back.
5) Never make concessions on snacks Whether it’s popcorn or Milkduds, everyone loves a nostalgic movie theater treat. Set up a serve yourself concessions stand with bowls and glasses so that guests can help themselves and you won’t have to miss a line playing short order cook.
6) Utilize ambient light to create ambiance You want it dark enough to see the movie, but you also want a little light for function and ambiance. Dig out the Christmas lights for a little twinkle in the trees or use candlelight for a more grown-up gathering. Mason Jar votives anyone?
7) Don’t forget to get your neighbors involved An outdoor movie event could potentially be disturbing to the homes around yours, so let your neighbors know your plans ahead of time and maybe even invite them to the fun!
That’s it, it’s official! I’m throwing my first Red Clay Backyard Movie Festival this Friday. Now, should I go classic with Philadelphia Story or goofy with Goonies? Decisions, decisions.