DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

Outdoor Movie Theater Ideas

When warm weather comes around, your mind starts turning to entertaining outdoors. One of the great ways to enjoy a warm summer evening is to set up your own outdoor movie theater.

This may surprise you to learn that the process is simple. In just a few hours, you will have a setup that is ready for families and friends to enjoy. Keep in mind that this DIY setup does not just have to be for movies though.

You could also use it for sporting events, gaming, and more. The basic idea is that you will have an outdoor entertainment option to use for a variety of purposes. If you are not sure of how to get started, this information is a lifesaver.

Not only does it give you the information you need to set up your outdoor theater, you will also have handy tips on making this a great space all around.

Supplies Needed


  • Good quality projector- low-quality ones will give you poor picture quality
  • Laptop or other devices that can connect to the projector
  • Sound system- can be simple as two speakers or as many as desired
  • Outdoor theater screen
  • Extension cord with enough plugs for all components
  • Cables- connect the projector to a laptop

Get the Right Screen

First, you will need a screen. Depending on whether you want your setup to be temporary or long-term, you have a few different options. For temporary and inexpensive, you can use a few white sheets that are hung on a clothesline, fence, or similar. This will work as a makeshift option.

However, if you would rather have a more permanent option, then you can purchase one online or from a local store. These usually come with supports and provide a better image quality. They are also available in a variety of sizes.


Choose the one that fits your budget and needs best.

Set up the Right Distance


Once you have your screen set up, then you need to decide on the distance between the screen and the projector. You may have to make some adjustments when working on this so give yourself enough time to get it right.

Remember that the space between the projector and screen is also going to affect your guests.

Try to place the screen and projector in space where people will not have to walk between them, ruining the picture quality. If you allow for alternate routes to snacks, the bathroom, and the house, this likely will not be a problem.

Set Up the Projector

This is a must-have item for a home theater. This is also going to be the most expensive part of the setup. If you are trying to work on a budget, save most of it for this item as it does make a difference.

There are some budget projects for less than $500 but you will get a better view if you are willing to pay more.

When shopping, look for the following features:

  1. 16:9 aspect ratio- this is native for HDTV, Blu-ray, and most movie formats
  2. Full HD Resolution- 1080p or 1080i output are best. If you are on a tight budget, settle for a 720p
  3. I recommend a projector that has HDMI and Bluetooth technologies

Get the DVD, Blu-ray Player, or Streaming Media Device

This is an area where you have the most flexibility. The source of the movies or other entertainment is up to you. Most people set up a DVD player, but you can simply use your laptop. A projector that has an HDMI in port can be connected to your laptop directly.

This will then allow you to stream movies online and give you more options for use. Some projectors are even compatible with USB drives so you may want to consider what will work best for your needs.

Personally, I have a projector that has an HDMI port, so I use an Amazon Firestick. It is great for movies and sporting events. Other devices such as a Roku or Apple TV work nicely as well.

Set Up the Sound System

This is an area where many people have dreams of greatness. They want to set up a surround system with the latest technology. While you could do this, the setup and positioning can be a logistical nightmare.

The easiest and often best setup is a standard stereo setup. You can use two stereo speakers by hanging them on both sides of the projector screen. The receiver can then be placed under the screen.

If you would like to buy a new 2.1 sound system, they are relatively inexpensive, and you do not need amazing sound anyways. Look for 100W power rating per channel for the best value.

For our family, I have a projector that has Bluetooth technology that allows us to use a variety of portable speakers so this is another option to consider for sound.

Extension Cord with Surge Protection

One thing that you will need to make this work is an extension cord. Since this is going to be used outside where there may be water, people walking, and even pets, your standard one likely will not do. Instead, make sure that you purchase one with surge protection that is extremely durable.

You will probably need one that is 30 feet long.

The orange cords are usually the best quality and can be found at most electronic or hardware stores.

Connect Everything Together

Now that you have all the components, you can use cables to connect the projector to the laptop or other movie sources. You may need S-video, component, and HDMI cables.

You may also need analog cables for audio.

Usually, the video cables need to be about six feet and plan for 10 feet for audio cables.

Create the Ultimate Theater Space

Now that your outdoor movie theater is up and ready to go, you just need a few more things to work on. Make sure that you have chairs and blankets or have people bringing their own.

Set up tables for food, drinks, games, and more than needed. Try to place them in an area where people can leave without disturbing anyone watching movies.

BBQ is a great idea but only if you can manage the smoke. Keep the grill downwind of the seating area. Also, the light is going to affect the area.

Try to turn off all the lights if you can or rearrange the area so that you will not be affected by streetlights.

Finally, make sure that your sound will not bother the neighbors or violate any local ordinances. Once you do all of this, you will be in great shape to have a good time with family and friends. Use this guide to get your setup just right.


Click here for more ideals on how to create the Ideal Backyard.

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Author: Lee

8 thoughts on “DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

  1. Hello Lee, thank you for taking your time to share this helpful guide on how I could set up my outdoor movie theatre successfully. I have had issues with low quality projector before now. They are not good fit in any way because low quality pictures are terrible to behold and not encouraging to gaze at either. The advice to go for a high quality one should be taken seriously. I also love great sound. Thanks for the recommendations.

  2. I LOVE this! You have lierally read my mind…I have always wanted to create a backyard movie area – especially in these days where movie theaters are a no go area!

    I am so excited, you have given me so many ideal products to make this possible!

    Thanks soo much for all of your creativity – this is a site that I am bookmarking right now. (Picures will follow of my outdoor cinema!

  3. Hello, with summer coming up I’ve been recently been browsing the internet for awesome things to do and I stumbled upon your site. Me and my family love to do projects like this. I am all about family bonding and this is definitely one of the things I’ll be adding to my bucket list for this summer. Awesome article!! Thanks for the amazing content.

  4. This is so needed right now! I love having outdoor movies especially with a good screen and sound system. What do you prefer for a sound system? I’ll usually cheap out and get the least-expensive model. The screen isn’t something to skimp out on though! I have watched many movies on a wrinkled white sheet or the side of a house. Let’s just say the quality wasn’t great. I learned from your post, so thank you!

  5. This is one of the best

    ideas i have come as far as

    backyard happiness. The 

    backyard is indeed one of

    the colest of the home that

    is very useful for different

    form entertainment ideas.

    i have never thought of using 

    my backyard for as cinema nad

     as a bar but from the content

    of the site i will love to give it a try

    and hope its a great deal for me.

  6. Hey Lee

    Thank you for an amazing post. I love learning about fun practical activities that involve the whole family.

    Right now in South Africa is the beginning of winter and it’s cold out there. But, reading your post has given me the motivation to prepare for a fun-filled summer.

    This is great timing for me because some of the items you listed are a bit expensive here so I need to buy them one at a time. At least the white sheets are cheap, LOL. Luckily summer is a good few months away.

    The detailed set-up instructions and tips you provided leaves so much to say but I think this is enough so let me rather ask. Can I make this work with only a laptop, projector and speakers and have an equally great time?

    Solomon & Selina

  7. Hi Lee,

    I love your idea to use simple facilities that we could find in local stores or online to set up an outdoor theater right in the backyard. This will be a life-saving solution due to the lock-down boredom in my region and I hope I could read this article earlier this year. It’s fantastic to have a BBQ dinner for a movie night, and it seems that you are very good at turning the backyard into a place that all family loves to stay together.


    1. Exactly, the lockdown has forced us to reconsider how we live. If you have a backyard, why not use it? We still have a desire and a need to be entertained.

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