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How To Host a Backyard Movie Night on a Budget (+ Free Printables)

October 30, 2020


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Going to see a movie has been a classic activity for families, friends and couples since the first movie theater opened more than 100 years ago. As social distancing makes moviegoing an obstacle, however, people longing for the fun of watching a movie with a group are turning to alternative options.

Luckily, you don’t need a big screen and stadium seating to create the fun feeling of watching a movie with your loved ones. All you need is a backyard, a projector and some creativity. Read our guide to hosting a fun, low-cost backyard movie night, or skip to one of the printables below.

Invitations | Movie-Picking Game | Retro Decor Kit

How to Throw a Backyard Movie Night

As the weather gets cooler, we all want to get outside as much as possible. Watching a movie under the stars is a great outdoor activity for families, romantic activity for couples or socially distant activity for friends.

Step 1: Send out invitations

The first step to any party is to decide your guest list and get the group together. Make sure to establish any social distancing guidelines for your party, such as whether masks will be required and if guests can bring any additional people along. Even if your movie night is just a family affair, make your loved ones feel special and excited by personally inviting them to the event.

Looking for some fun invites that won’t eat into your snack budget? Download our editable invites below.


Step 2: Set up a screen

Outdoor movie screens are available through many online retailers, such as Amazon. Though it’s ideal to have an actual screen made for movie-watching, it isn’t always realistic to buy or rent one of these products. Luckily, a screen can be created from common household objects such as a white sheet or blanket pulled taught and tied to a fence or other firm object. As a last resort, you can also project the movie on a large, blank wall or fence if you have one in your backyard.

Step 3: Get a projector

No matter which screen set-up you opt for, you’re going to need a projector. Projectors are available for a sliding scale of budgets, from cheaper versions meant to enhance indoor movie watching to heavy-duty options meant for outdoor crowds. (Editor’s tip: Want to make your budget movie night feel like the real deal? Use these Target coupons to get one at a lower price.)

Step 4: Pick a movie

Once your set-up is complete, it’s time for the fun part: Picking the movie! Whether you opt for a free movie from a service like Tubi or Kanopy or splurge on a rental or streaming service, there are many options both new and old. For those who feel like taking a gamble or simply can’t decide on a film, use this fishbowl movie picking game to help pick a flick.


Step 5: Prepare to stream

You’ll need to make sure you have a quality stream and bluetooth speakers to fill the area with sound. You can hook your projector up to a laptop, AppleTV or Amazon Fire Stick to stream the movie of your choice. Then, connect bluetooth speakers or an outdoor speaker system.

Step 6: Make some snacks

There are tons of movie theater staples — popcorn, candy and sodas. While it’s a must to have a cooler stocked with drinks, you can get creative with your other offerings. To save money, you can also ask your guests to bring their own dish and have a potluck-style backyard movie night.

Themed snacks: Get festive by pairing your snacks to your movie. For example: Create balloon-shaped sugar cookies for your screening of Disney’s “Up,” or create your own marshmallow men to watch “Ghostbusters.”

Popcorn bar: To level up your popcorn, include a selection of chocolates, sauces and toppings that guests can add to their bowls. (Editor’s tip: go gourmet for less with these Popcorn Factory coupons).

S’mores: If you have a fire pit available, s’mores are a crowd favorite that don’t have to be reserved for camping trips.

Step 7: Set up the ambiance

Part of the fun of a trip to the theater is the ambiance. The neon lights, popcorn smell and comfortable seating make any movie-watching experience fun and exciting. Recreate the fun feeling of a movie theater with retro-inspired decor, and be sure to include comfortable seating like folded chairs, blankets or pillows.

DIY decor is an easy way to save money, and putting up the decorations together gets the whole family involved! Check out our printable decorations for your backyard movie night below.


Step 8: Enjoy the movie!

For the comfort of yourself and your guests, establish some boundaries for your movie-watching experience. You don’t have to make sure everyone stays completely silent, but determining whether people are movie-talkers or movie-watchers is important for making sure everyone has fun. While the movie is playing, you can also come up with fun games to play — playing Twister while watching “Twister,” anyone?

More Budget-Friendly Ideas for Your Backyard Movie Night

There are many ways to take your movie night to the next level with fun crafts and games to play.

Roll out the red carpet: Turn your backyard movie night into an exclusive movie premiere by having your guests dress up and walk down a red carpet on their way to your backyard.

Play bingo: If you’re watching a movie you’ve seen before, make a bingo game for memorable lines or moments from the movie. You can make your own bingo cards online here.

Costume contest: Have your guests dress up in a costume that relates to the movie you’re watching and award a prize to the best! (Editor’s tip: You can purchase costumes at a discount with these coupons.)

Light the space: Purchase some outdoor string lights to hang up around your screen, seating and snack areas to make sure everyone can see each other while watching.

Make a signature drink: Whether alcoholic for an adult movie party or non-alcoholic for a family night, creating a signature, themed drink for the movie is a fun way to get people excited.

Getting into the movie spirit doesn’t have to mean going out to a theater — or even leaving your house! Create your own at-home movie memories with a screen, projector and some loved ones. (And if you want to browse a selection of fun movies to consider for your own backyard screening, check out these Hulu coupons.)

We hope that you found this blog helpful. Our content is not intended to provide financial advice. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional. Capital One Shopping does not endorse or guarantee any information or recommendation listed above. The third parties named are not affiliated with Capital One Shopping and they are solely responsible for their products and services. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.