How to Host an Outdoor Movie Night

Light the citronella candles, pop the corn, and use the cooler as a footstool – it’s an old-fashioned outdoor movie night! And since staying in is the new going out, this is the perfect summer to whip up the backyard (or side yard or front porch or driveway) cinema that you’ve always dreamed of. Here’s our tips for how to host a (socially distant) outdoor movie night for any budget.

Step 1. Pick a spot

If you have a plain white wall that’s flat, you’re in business and skip to step #3. If not, find a spot where you can set some chairs up – you’ll want to be at least 8 feet away (depending on where your projector is). Next, consider if you are hanging a screen or if you are using a screen on a stand. That will determine if you need any hardware to make your screen.

Step 2. Make a screen

There are a ton of ways to make a screen depending on your budget, time, and desire to use power tools. But the one thing that all screens need – regardless of means or mode – is to be pulled taut. There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Get an old, white sheet or shower curtain and use some heavy-duty double side tape (a LOT of it) to pull and stick the edges of your fabric to the surface. This method is temporary and only works with lightweight fabric, but it’s just about as thrifty as they come!
  • If you’re using something more heavy duty like a white canvas or drop cloth, cut a small hole in the top left and right corners and hook onto some nails or S-hooks. To pull it taut, fold the bottom of the fabric in and sew a small pocket with open hole on either end. Run a wood dowel or curtain rod through the tube pocket to weigh down the screen.
  • If you’re up for a trip to the hardware store, you can build a 100” frame for under $50 and a few hours of DIY. You’ll need a few 1 x 4 plywood beams, a handful of nails, a staple gun, and white blackout cloth. Think of it as a giant painter’s canvas. Here’s a good YouTube tutorial we’ve used before.

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Step 3. Hook up an A/V system

Like the screen set up,  there are about a zillion ways that you can hook up an A/V system depending on your budget, desired lumens, and whether or not you NEED to watch Jurassic Park in surround sound. You can buy projectors from anywhere up to $5,000 or a $50 mini projector that hooks up to your cell phone.

Do your research and figure out which one is right for your budget and needs. If you’re just testing the waters, ask around and see if anyone has one you can borrow for the night. If you do buy one, we recommend shopping local. And even if it’s a big chain store, shopping at the local branch keeps jobs in your community and your carbon footprint lower!

Also, don’t forget about the sound! Some projectors have a built-in speaker, but we suggest plugging in an amp or a speaker to get the full effect! Who wants to listen to listen to American Graffiti out of a rinky-dink speaker? Not us.

Step 4. Pop the corn

Seriously, what’s the point of a movie night with no popcorn?  Save the microwave stuff for the winter and pop the kernels over some high heat. Toss it with all the yums.

  • Plain old butter and salt
  • Sugar, salt, oil of choice (aka DIY Kettle Corn)
  • Brewer’s yeast and coconut oil
  • Olive oil, dried herbs and garlic salt

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Step 5. Invite some friends

Or keep it just your family – up to you. Invite friends and neighbors (assuming you have 6 feet of space to spare between friends) and tell them to BYO blankets and chairs. Extra air fives if they add something to the cooler.

Step 6. Pick a Movie

The reason for the season. A few of our summer favorites…  

The Goonies – The classic

Coming to America – For the grown-up movie night

Step into Liquid – When you’re dreaming of waves

Searching for Sugar Man – Good tunes, great story

Dirty Dancing – Gives “family vacation” a whole new meaning

Dazed and Confused – We get older, this movie stays the same age

Sister Act – Gospel music meets the mob. Make it a double feature with Sister Act II

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – Don’t forget your heels

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The Ultimate Staycation Guide

 

We love vacation because it’s relaxing: Drinking cocktails while watching the sunset, taking long walks, having meaningful conversations with good company, not a care in the world… Half the price and a quarter of the hassle, we’re learning to embrace the staycation. Sure it’s a little harder to get away from it all, but ignore the laundry for a few days and don’t even think about cracking open your computer before Monday morning. Swap your bike for your car or swap your sneaks for your bike. Let brunch spill into lunch, lunch spill into happy hour, happy hour into dinner with friends, and if you’ve got the energy hit the old late-night stomping grounds. Or skip the late night and get your beauty sleep. Whatever you want. It’s your staycation, so live it up.

Tips For a Great Staycation:

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1. Take pictures of your town. Grab a camera (yes, a REAL camera) and join the tourists. If they can appreciate amazing architecture and local public art, you can too!

2. Go to the coffee shop you don’t usually frequent. It’s great people watching, and who knows, might be great coffee as well. Bring a book, do a crossword puzzle, catch up with an old friend. Just don’t check your email.

3. Bike to brunch. Mainly because you’ll need to bike home after a few Bloody Mary’s. Eat extra bacon to soak up the breakfast booze. Leave a good tip, you’re on staycation.

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4. Head to the local botanic garden or arboretum. Pack some snacks and enjoy the garden you’ve never been to. Learn about the local flora and fauna and spend a few hours appreciating the simple things. Well, if you consider photosynthesis simple…

5. Do the local nature loop or urban hike. With all that lounging (it’s a vacation, you shouldn’t be lifting a finger), you may want to walk it off. If there isn’t a designated nature loop, find a local trail map and see which trails connect. For an urban hike, hop on google maps and plot places you want to hit up. Google will map a route for you.

6. Grab a drink at the oldest bar in town. Perhaps it’s the free shuffleboard, maybe it’s the legendary bartender, there’s a reason this place is the oldest joint in town. Pop in during your urban hike or make it the first stop of the night. Just remember to bring some quarters for the juke box.

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7. Visit the local historical home or museum.  Even the tiniest towns seem to have a robust historical society. Seek out your historical home or local history museum and spend some time talking to the docents and exploring the rooms. It’s generally pretty cheap (or donation based) and you’ll learn some gems about the town’s past. Spoiler Alert: It’s probably wilder than you think.

8. Sample beer at the local brewery. Maybe it’s your favorite haunt, even so, get the sampler and remind yourself why you love the local brew. Try whatever is seasonal and sit at the bar so you can ask the bartender all your touristy questions.

9. Pop into a few art galleries. New York has the Met, Los Angeles has the Getty, your town’s got something to write home about. Find it. And might we suggest doing this after the aforementioned local brewery. You’ll be nice and open minded!

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10. Explore the next town over. It’s amazing how far we travel for new experiences. The next great experience is likely just down the road. Pull out a map and find the next town over, about 30 miles away. Hop in the car (or take the train!) and spend an afternoon exploring. Check to see what they’re known for (Do they have a local dish you can’t miss? Do they have a free summer concert series?) and spend the day exploring. Repeat tips 1-9.

11. Treat yourself to some R&R. You saved a whole bunch on hotel and travel costs, so indulge in a  mani/pedi or a full body massage. Rejuvenation is key to a successful vacation, so don’t forsake it. You’re only cheating yourself.

12. Cap it off with a Sunday night BBQ with friends. You’ve got pictures, souvenirs and a boatload of new info about your town. Invite your friends over for a sunday night cookout and regale them with your staycation stories. No shoes required – you’re on holiday, remember?

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