How to Make a Backyard Cinema

Backyard Cinema! I can’t think of anything much more fun than gathering families in our backyard for a late summer evening screening of a classic family movie, projected onto an old white sheet strung between two trees. I have been scouring the internet for hows and how nots. It seems it can be super simple, or elaborate and expensive.

Basically, it seems you will need:

A yard
The size will dictate the audience number and the neighbours will dictate the noise level. Ideally we would all live on large farms with open fields. Realistically – invite your neighbours or keep it to a weekend.

A Screen


A sheet and a string. Ah, so simple in theory. As long as your audience don’t mind a slightly wrinkly film.

Over at Design*Sponge there are super simple directions for stapling a twin size flat sheet to a couple of 2x4s and propping them up in buckets of rocks or cement. Apartment therapy recommends sewing on a backing sheet of black cloth or canvas to create a blackout cloth.

Here are some great DIY directions on Wired for making a screen frame out of PVC pipe.

Alternatively, if you are feeling ritzy, try something like this.

A DVD player or Computer and a movie

Finding the perfect movie to suit a large age range is sometimes challenging. Commonsense  Media should help you out.

A projector

Beg, borrow, craigslist. It looks like projectors for outdoor use can get quite expensive. Here is a useful buyers guide and a guide to finding a second hand projector.

A sound system

It can be as simple as setting up computer speakers or as complicated as wiring up your garden to provide surround sound. See the notes in the full tutorial with all the advice from those who have done all of this before.


Find 10 Make-at-home-snacks for movie night on the Kitchn and lots of movie night recipes on Martha Stewart.

Add the sparkle

Browse through Pinterest for plenty of ideas for decorating, invitations and inspiration.

So, by the time I get all this organised it will be Summer next year… but on the bright side, with every year that passes and I put off doing this, the kids get older and the selection of appropriate movies gets better.

Photo credit: David Bordwell