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Open-Air Theater: How to Create an Entertaining Outdoor Movie Night!

Whether you are a movie buff, someone who loves to host football parties for friends, spends more time outdoors than inside or simply is a sucker for that romantic ‘movie night’ out in the open, simply no one can resist the charm of an outdoor entertainment zone! This could range from a temporary setup that involves your regular flat screen and Blu-ray player or a dedicated outdoor theater complete with a state-of-the-art projector and sound system. The outdoor movie night is a classic that everyone loves, and often the setup works for that Super Bowl weekend as well!

With home entertainment technology evolving in leaps and bounds in the last few years, almost everyone can now afford the outdoor TV / home theater option. Wireless connectivity has also made the streaming of online and offline content far easier, and even smartphones and tablets can now be used to get this done. With that in mind, we take a quick look at the few essentials that you need for that amazing outdoor movie / entertainment night, along with a few tips that will make it all the more fun –

1. Choosing the Perfect Spot

Your quest for a dreamy outdoor movie night obviously starts with the hunt for the right spot outdoors, which will serve all your entertainment needs. Finding that perfect nook starts with considering the available space, the number of guests you will generally entertain (or if the movie night is just a family thing), the various light sources in the neighborhood, and of course the equipment you will use. While a small, temporary theater arrangement with a regular TV allows you more flexibility, a more permanent, dedicated outdoor theater with projector and screen requires precise planning and ample space.

A can of paint can turn the garage wall into an awesome movie screen [From: The American Institute of Architects / Eric Staudenmaier Photography]
A can of paint can turn the garage wall into an awesome movie screen [From: The American Institute of Architects / Eric Staudenmaier Photography]
Carport overhang turned into a stunning projection screen [Design: Belzberg Architects]
Carport overhang turned into a stunning projection screen [Design: Belzberg Architects]
Unique home design offers twice the seating space thanks to twin levels!
Unique home design offers twice the seating space thanks to twin levels!
All you need is a small outdoor nook for a charming home theater under the sky [Design: Design Within Reach]
All you need is a small outdoor nook for a charming home theater under the sky [Design: Design Within Reach]

2. Consider Multiple Options

Not everyone is blessed with a lavish backyard that contains a gorgeous pergola, pool and maybe even a fabulous Tiki bar! Those lucky enough to have a pergola can use it as the setting for your movie night outdoors. Apart from offering protection from the elements, it also creates a defined boundary for the alfresco extravaganza. Folks with modest or tiny yards, a small porch or patio can use that blank wall as a projection screen, and a can of silver screen paint can do wonders for picture quality and clarity!

Expansive outdoor living area with TV [Design: Heartlands Building Company]
Expansive outdoor living area with TV [Design: Heartlands Building Company]
Outdoor movie night on the deck for the contemporary, urban apartment [Design: Gerstner]
Outdoor movie night on the deck for the contemporary, urban apartment [Design: Gerstner]
Lovely, relaxing pool area with giant screen for an outdoor movie night [Design: Aqua-Link Pools and Spas]
Lovely, relaxing pool area with giant screen for an outdoor movie night [Design: Aqua-Link Pools and Spas]

3. Seating and Space

Once you have picked the spot you feel is best, it is time to think about the seating arrangement and the distance between the screen / television and the seats. No one really expects to roll out luxurious chairs and plush sofas for an outdoor movie night, but a few floor cushions, some snazzy outdoor chairs and maybe a cozy loveseat or two can make the evening even more memorable. If you do not want to splurge on décor that you feel will be used sparingly, then simply bring out some of those ottomans and chairs from the living and dining room to get the job done.

Eclectic outdoor home theater idea [Design: World Wide Stereo]
Eclectic outdoor home theater idea [Design: World Wide Stereo]
Simple, smart and durable seating for the outdoor home theater [Design: Republic Gardens]
Simple, smart and durable seating for the outdoor home theater [Design: Republic Gardens]

4. Getting the Right Gear

This is where budget plays a big role in your overall outdoor movie experience. Obviously a high-end outdoor projector coupled with a quality sound system will cost considerably more than more modest flat screen alternatives. Modern outdoor televisions might not have all the features of their indoor counterparts, but they are definitely a far safer choice and should suffice in most cases. Also make sure that you get all the wiring done properly, and throw in an internet-enabled Blu-ray player to stream all the latest Netflix, YouTube or Hulu content with ease!

Awesome outdoor TV for the expansive outdoor home theater [Design: VIA – Los Angeles]
Awesome outdoor TV for the expansive outdoor home theater [Design: VIA – Los Angeles]
20-foot high-tech poolside screen with weather-sensitive features shapes a stunning outdoor theater [Design: VIA – San Francisco]
20-foot high-tech poolside screen with weather-sensitive features shapes a stunning outdoor theater [Design: VIA – San Francisco]
Mediterranean style pool area with waterfall features a hidden wonder [Design: Beringer Fine Homes]
Mediterranean style pool area with waterfall features a hidden wonder [Design: Beringer Fine Homes]
Vinyl screen and projector turn the pool area into a comfy theater
Vinyl screen and projector turn the pool area into a comfy theater

5. Braving the Elements

A shaded porch, deck or a poolside space with a pergola obviously offers enough protection for the outdoor TV in most cases. But for those still using their living room television for the outdoor movie night, a weatherproof cabinet is an absolute must. This protects your valuable big-screen TV perfectly, and you will avoid any unexpected accidents. (It is also a good idea to check out the weather forecast for the evening beforehand just to make sure your guests are not scurrying for cover in the darkness of night!)

Pergola with outdoor TV, fireplace and cozy seating [Design: West Bay Landscape]
Pergola with outdoor TV, fireplace and cozy seating [Design: West Bay Landscape]
Shade sail above the pergola offers protection from the elements [Design: John Benson Photography]
Shade sail above the pergola offers protection from the elements [Design: John Benson Photography]
Rear projector TV with weather controlled case for the outdoor TV experience [Design: Colorworks Studio]
Rear projector TV with weather controlled case for the outdoor TV experience [Design: Colorworks Studio]

6. Lighting and Ambiance

When it comes to setting the mood, turn to more traditional lighting options that are just soft enough to illuminate their immediate surroundings. Candles, low-intensity in-floor LED lighting, lantern-style outdoor lights or even a few Tiki torches are perfect for this. The aim here must be to create adequate light so that everyone can see where they are going and not an iota more!

Gorgeous use of string lighting for the patio home theater [Design: Shapiro Didway]
Gorgeous use of string lighting for the patio home theater [Design: Shapiro Didway]
Patio with tropical style hut that is the perfect for outdoor movie night [Design: Cedar Springs Landscape Group]
Patio with tropical style hut that is the perfect for outdoor movie night [Design: Cedar Springs Landscape Group]

7. A Neighborhood Event!

Finally, make sure you do not forget the little things like informing your neighbors of the festive outdoor event. (Even if you are not too keen on having them over!) Make sure that the movie night does not end up becoming a loud inconvenience for others, as not everyone is blessed with a generous, private backyard. Also stock up on the snack and drinks as you sink into a fun-filled party evening that promises to last through the wee hours of morning.

Rooftop garden turned into a fabulous outdoor theater [Design: Brook Landscape]
Rooftop garden turned into a fabulous outdoor theater [Design: Brook Landscape]
Contemporary pool area turned into outdoor movie space [Design: SmartHouse Integration LLC]
Contemporary pool area turned into outdoor movie space [Design: SmartHouse Integration LLC]
Outdoor movie zone next to the pool [Design: Creative Sights N Sounds]
Outdoor movie zone next to the pool [Design: Creative Sights N Sounds]

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