Movie Night Under The Stars

Many people search “Movie Night Under The Stars” to find information about the annual NYC Parks event. But did you know that with a few simple steps, you can enjoy a similar experience right in your own backyard?!

If you dream of hosting the perfect Movie night under the stars, do not look further. Just imagine warm summer evenings where you gather with friends and family to watch your favorite films. Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it? Hosting an outdoor viewing party can be a fantastic bonding experience and an opportunity to make unforgettable memories.

In this blog post, with input from bi-coastal interior designer, Janna Robinson, I’ll share some essential tips and creative ideas to help you host an outdoor cinematic extravaganza that your guests will long remember!

Short Summary
  • Location, screen size & placement, quality sound are key.
  • Comprehensive lighting, comfortable seating, and design elements provide ambiance.
  • Prepare for weather and other challenges by weatherproofing setup, bug control, and added safety precautions.

Creating Your Own Outdoor Movie Theater

When done correctly, an outdoor theater has the ability to take movie watching to a whole new level. There is something about the stars in the sky coupled with emotionally evoking content on the screen that can transport the viewer...Perhaps, for some, it conjures childhood memories when a sheet was tied between trees as a makeshift screen, or romantic moments when constellations were the main attraction. Regardless, with today’s cutting edge technology, one can easily achieve an effect worthy of a real theater right in their own backyard.

To throw your own movie night under the stars, you’ll need to select the ideal location, invest in the right equipment, and determine the best screen size and placement; learning about something called throw ratio is key for this

But first….

Location Selection

Identifying the right location for viewing and seating is the crucial first step. Number one in priority is ensuring there is minimal ambient noise and street light interference. That said, you never know what obstacles you may face

For example, Janna has a client with a very loud outdoor air conditioning unit, and it sadly lives smack to the side of his preferred seating area. What to do? Thanks to SPOAK she was able to show him various configuration on the other side of his pool for more intimate movie watching, which he wound up preferring. Had he not been able to visualize this with the Spoak software, and Janna’s keen sense of design, he might have overlooked this configuration, or nixed the idea entirely.

The sweet spot would also be close to your residence for easy access to electricity, wifi, and refreshments. Unless of course you’re wanting to set up an outdoor kitchen or catering station. This latter option is not only convenient for guests, but also for you. I mean, who wants to run back and forth to fill up a popcorn bowl? Speaking of that, how about incorporating a popcorn maker! It’s always a hit with outdoor movie nights. Janna likes the old time-y vibe it adds.

While we’re at it…

How about a self-serve snack station? This DIY concession stand lets guests help themselves to refreshments, making your life easier. It also lessens foot traffic in your home. By mimicking typical movie going fare, while putting your own healthy or gourmet twist on it, your guests can enjoy the same goodies they’d find at a real theater, only better!

Equipment Essentials

To bring the luxuries and comforts of indoor viewing to the great outdoors, it’s essential to invest in the right gear for your backyard movie night. For instance, if your “movie night station” isn’t going to be a permanent space, then a portable projector is useful. Janna loves the The Cosmos Laser 1080p because it works off a power source and comes with two speakers that are 10 watts each. Also, it has bluetooth and android streaming capabilities which means you can play your favorite pre-show/post show music from the projector. However, if you have a wide, open space, the Cosmo Laser 4k is the better choice. Learn more about the right equipment for your needs before purchasing. You’ll thank me later.

Screen Size and Placement

When it comes to screen choice and placement, take into account the size of your backyard and the viewing distance from the seats. There are several cost-effective DIY movie screen options. For instance, a plain white shower curtain liner or a drop cloth actually works. You can construct a DIY movie screen using a shower rod, two plant hangers, and a white curtain or sheet. These are just some of the simple yet effective solutions available. Still, nothing compares to an outdoor fixed screen or even a portable professional outdoor screen. It lessens the variables like wind interference, or lack of hokey DIY construction.

Next, let’s generate an atmosphere!

These four major components, seating, lighting, decorations, and party favors add flavor.

Creative Seating Ideas

Seating can be creative but it also has to be comprehensive. You must assure all of your guests are within eyeline to the screen, and within hearing range of the sound. Makeshift arrangements using canvas puffs or bolsters can work in a pinch. Remember, this isn’t like a typical movie theater or even an indoor movie room where there’s usually gradation. You’ll need to compensate for this. 

While setting up your viewing area where your permanent seating lives is preferred, I understand it’s not always an option. Some people use beach chairs and other folding seats that live in the garage and get taken out for the event. All told, comfort is important. If you go for DIY seating, test it out before guests arrive.

Proper Lighting

Lighting plays a significant role in that you need it placed such that it doesn’t obstruct the screen. As well, you don’t want it to compete with nature’s skylights! Janna suggests going for for low-output lighting rather than overhead. Another helpful feature is adjustable lighting so you can regulate the brightness level to influence mood. As well, she likes to employ Landscape lighting for pathways. This is especially helpful when all lights go down for movie time, but guests are still arriving. These low lights won’t obstruct the viewing experience and can help prevent accidents. Strategically placed string lights, lanterns, and glow sticks help make a cozy atmosphere, beckoning the “fire fly” effect associated with hotter summer evenings.

Movie Night Decorations

Establish a theme, then run with it! Outdoor theaters are an excellent opportunity to throw down hay bales for a country western, or break out the halloween decor for a thriller. Use Eiffel Tower toppings on a cupcake if it’s a French film, or a series of cacti planters for one set in the desert. (You can even hide surround sound in the cactus.) From Mexican sombreros to gold swan pool floats–with wider, open spaces, and outdoor elements, there’s less concern for wear and tear and more opportunity to play.

Party Favors

Monogrammed or color coordinated blankets for cooler nights is a favorite. Likewise, handheld misters are excellent for those hot, summer months. Party favors like flasks, beanies, or t-shirts with the name of the film printed on the item makes an awesome keepsake. These backyard movie night ideas will not only add a personal touch, but help set the tone for fun!

Additional Seating Considerations 

If possible, configure a lounge area, separate from the film seating space. It can be something as simple as a Moroccan motif using throw pillows and a low table. Include silver platters of Turkish Delight and Persian tea for that little extra wow factor.

A kid’s station is also helpful should the film not be child-friendly or for restless little ones. Hiring a babysitter to employ face paints or arts and crafts is a great way to keep children occupied. Assure it is out of viewing and sound range if it’s not an age-appropriate show.

Regardless where the seating and stations live, remember to make outdoor, pool house, or indoor restroom access easily accessible for all.

Preparing for Weather and Other Outdoor Challenges

Outdoor movie nights come complete with their own set of challenges such as unpredictable weather and pesky bugs. Weatherproofing your own projector and setup is essential for a successful outdoor family movie night. 

Weatherproofing Your Setup

Protect your cinema equipment from potential weather hazards by using waterproof covers and tarps for your projector, screen, and other gear. Safeguard your investment and ensure that the show goes on, uninterrupted, even if the weather takes a turn for the worse

*Having some additional umbrellas on hand isn’t a bad idea either.

Bug Control

Keep bugs at bay during your outdoor movie night with bug-repelling candles, bug zappers, and screen room tents.These bug control measures provide a more enjoyable environment for all. 

Additional Safety Measures

Secure cords. Provide adequate lighting. Keep a first aid kit on hand. If you take these safety precautions to heart, you’ll feel more relaxed throughout the night.


In conclusion, hosting a memorable outdoor movie night is all about careful planning and attention to detail. Just follow the above tips and invite those you love, and wait for the stars to shine!

Frequently Asked Questions

Isn’t Movie Night Under The Stars the name of a specific event?

Not exclusively! Yes, “Movie Under the Stars” is the name for an outdoor movie series sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and NYC Parks, showcasing over 400 films in parks throughout NYC annually. That said, the term has been used for other events as well. And, it’s also a name for those who want to throw an epic backyard theater party of their own!

Do I need to go to a NYC Park to enjoy a Movie Night Under The Stars?

No! With the help of the above tips and Spoak software, you can make magic in your own backyard!

written by Laurie C Peters for lifestyle tech and interior design hub,

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