Warm summer evenings tempt us outside for barbecues and banquets, but why stop there? Bring back the pleasure of a night at the drive-in theater with a backyard film festival under the stars. Start with an affordable projector, a Bluetooth sound system, a DVD player or laptop and a screen, garage wall or even a sheet folded over a fence.


movie playing on an outdoor screen

Be sensitive in your screening choices. If your film will be visible or audible to the neighborhood, limit your movie selections to G or PG ratings. Else, you may have to have “the talk” with your neighbor’s kids. *Awkward*


four adults sitting in chairs watching a movie outdoors with a popcorn machine in the background

We set up director’s chairs in keeping with our film theme, but squashy beanbags would be fun, too.


movie night snack table

Bring in a table for snacks and a cooler or bucket with ice for cold drinks. Don’t forget napkins and a cloth to wipe up any spills. Keep it tidy with a lidded trash container in the yard. It will also keep the bugs down.

This camping kitchen becomes a refreshment hub. The fold-out surface offers space to serve several guests at once. Plus it’s super easy clean-up.


popcorn machine filled with fresh popcorn

Hot buttered popcorn is a film feetival staple. Wheel out a nostalgic machine for a constant supply that stays warm and fresh. Just try. Try and resist.


movie night snack and candy wheel

An old hardware bin holds nuts and candy that can be scooped into popcorn or enjoyed on their own. Walmart and online sources sell fun popcorn bags that round out the theme.


movie night nachos

Set out a tray with nacho fixings. It’s easy, it will keep outdoors, and who doesn’t love nachos?


Kurtis fixing up his nachos during movie night

Nobody thinks health food when they go to the movies. Pile it on! The nachos, I mean. Movie calories don’t actually count.


classic cokes and sugar cane drinks in an ice bath

Cool a selection of old-fashioned sodas in a tub of ice. Keep paper straws and a tray of glasses ready if needed.


four adults watching a movie outdoors

Keep your film festival guests comfortable and safe with thoughtful touches that put their focus on the movie screen.


Kurtis and Hannah enjoying outdoor movie and popcorn

Ensure that paths and areas between seating and refreshments are bright. We used staked torches up high (citronella oil helps keep bugs at bay) and inflatable solar-powered lights on the ground.


movie night seating and projector

Remove the danger of wires snaking all over the yard by bundling them with plastic zip ties. Secure with ground staples to prevent guests from tripping. Avoid any cords or cables across pathways, around seating or near refreshments.


movie night with near by tables for drinks and snacks

Set up a surface within arm’s reach for holding drinks or snacks. Small tables, carts or overturned crates placed near or between each seat will do the trick. If you opt for blankets instead of chairs or beanbags, supply sturdy trays that will keep drinks steady on the ground.


Andrew and Amber sitting close together during the movie night

Stave off evening’s chill with a pile of throws or quilts. Stack them on or in a crate near guests. Who doesn’t love just snuggling under a blanket and watching movies? Trust me, your film festival will be a hit!


© Caruth Studio

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