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Throw an Outdoor Movie Night: Tips for Watching Summer Flicks Under the Stars

Why head to a crowded movie theater with overpriced snacks this summer when you can enjoy some of your favorite flicks outdoors and under the stars?

Summer evenings are the best time to entertain, especially when it comes to movie watch parties. As the scorching hot temps cool down to a mild warmth, you and your guests will love munching on some homemade snacks, drinking your favorite beverages and watching a fun summer flick under the stars. 

As elaborate as it sounds, throwing a movie watch party outside is actually pretty simple. Take a look at some of our outdoor movie night essentials, and start picking out what movies you want to screen at your home!


1. Set Up a Movie Projector and Screen

via We Lived Happily Ever After

Finding a projector to screen the movie is key. The good news is you can usually find a local place to rent one from. Ask around to friends and colleagues; schools, universities and libraries usually rent out projectors for free or a small fee. If there is a local electronics store that rents out projectors, even better (so you can pick it up and drop it off yourself). If none of these options are possible, try renting one online from places such as ATS Rentals or Avista Rentals. You can typically pick one out that will set up right to your laptop. 

If you have a flat wall, such as a brick wall or the side of a home, I suggest projecting the movie onto that. Otherwise, you can typically rent a large collapsible screen, or get creative and DIY one with a sheet or a tarp. We Lived Happily Ever After has a creative setup for their movie night screen (featured above)!

Audio is also important when screening movies; be sure that you have access to a nice stereo system that you can set up outside that will be loud enough for guests (but not too loud to disturb neighbors!)


2. Arrange Comfortable Seating

Enjoying a movie outdoors should feel more like a relaxed and laid-back casual party than an upscale event. Arrange blankets, cushions, pillows and folding chairs (in the back so as not to obstruct views) for more intimate seating. I love the idea of taking the cushions off of outdoor furniture to use as a seat on the ground, and arranging outdoor pillows. Spreading out various trays or crates is a good idea too so guests can set down their snacks and drinks.


3. Serve Themed Snacks

Krissy Winnick, Celebrations.com

Of course, popcorn is a must. If you can rent or borrow a large movie theater-style popcorn popper, definitely make that the center of attraction at the snack table. Otherwise, making big batches of stove-topped popcorn is great, too! Throw in some movie-style candy in the novelty cardboard packaging (available at most drug stores and places like Walmart and Target).


Patti Allan, Celebrations.com

Mix these fun movie theater-themed snacks with some delicious, yet easy homemade treats, such as Mini Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and S'Mores Cookies. Since you aren't limited to the concession stand snacks, now is the time to serve your favorite apps and treats! 


4. Don't Forget the Drinks

When it comes to serving drinks at an outdoor party, sometimes less is more. Set out a large tin bin or basin filled with ice and some canned sodas and beer. A couple of bottles of wine is also nice, and I like the idea of mixing up big batches of punch or cocktails, and storing them in mason jars. You can place these right along with the beer cans, and label each one with the respective drink. That way, guests can help themselves and you don't have to play mixologist all night.


4. Set the Mood Lighting & Decor

via Hostess with the Mostess

Obviously you want a dark atmosphere so that the movie shows up on the projector. But to make sure people can navigate their way to the snack table (and restroom!), set up lighting to create a visible path. These tealights in paper bags, featured on Hostess with the Mostess, are a great idea. Consider hanging up lanterns and string lights from nearby trees to create mood lighting that's not too bright. 


5. Keep the Bugs Away

via Nest of Posies

With so many guests in one area outside, mosquitoes and other pests are definitely going to show up uninvited. Make sure you light plenty of citronella candles. You can buy some at your local hardware store, or DIY some cute ones, like this tutorial from Nest of Posies. It's also a good idea to set out a bin with some unscented bug spray (away from the food and open flames) so people can spray themselves before sitting down. 


6. Pick the Flicks

Via Pinterest

Pick out one or two movies you know you and your guests will love. Since the movie party takes a little bit of work and planning, it's best to go with the classics that your friends already enjoy. Think big summer blockbusters, your favorite comedies, black-and-white classics, old Westerns, etc. Then you can rent or stream the movies straight from your laptop.


7. Invite Guests

Finally, don't forget to send out the invitation! Send them out to your guests at least two weeks in advance. That way, you can keep track of all of the RSVPs in time for the big premiere!

Find more party planning inspirations for Bbq And Outdoor

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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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