Smart Design With Suzette: Amaze Your Friends And Annoy Your Neighbors With Your Own Backyard Theater

Backyard theater. Courtesy photo

By SUZETTE FOX
Los Alamos

The great American love affair with the drive-in movie theater celebrates its 83rd anniversary. Although around 350 still exist across the United States, the drive-in survives on a smaller scale thanks to a growing number of people who have taken the concept back to its place of origin: the driveway and backyard.

Can it be done without spending a fortune? Not only is it possible, it is an amazing amount of fun as long as you follow some common sense rules.

Don’t be That Neighbor…

Depending on where you live, the concept of a backyard home theater may be a non-starter due to noise restrictions, safety regulations, or because you live in an apartment and it is unlikely that your landlord will permit it.

However, in suburbia, there are social norms to navigate. The smart thing to do is simply be a good neighbor – Invite them. Even if they decline, it will let them know what’s going on so you can avoid a visit from the local police. If they show – great, the more the merrier!

Movie supplies

Are You Licensed to Thrill?

While it’s highly unlikely that an entertainment lawyer is going to drive by while you watch a movie in your backyard, the reality is that there are copyright laws that actually prohibit you from charging to watch a film on your property, or publicly advertising the showing. Invite guests over to watch the movie of your choice, but don’t make it public knowledge with a flyer. Just because you paid for that Blu-ray disc doesn’t give you the legal right to become the new theater down the street.

Getting Started

There is something truly magical about watching a movie together under the stars. With minimal supplies and a simple, straightforward setup, you can create an outdoor theater for you and your friends. Pop some popcorn, grab a few blankets, and follow these tips to watch your favorite flick right in your own backyard.

Choose the Space

You can’t have a movie without power, so be sure to find a spot outdoors with access to outlets.
Design your setup with lighting in mind. Make sure that nearby house lights, street lights, or passing car headlights won’t reflect against your movie screen.

Build a Screen

Can’t afford a retractable projector screen? Not to worry: there are plenty of DIY options. Opt for a plain, white wall or crisp, white sheets, either taped or sewn together, to act as the screen. For a clear, crisp image, create a makeshift blackout cloth by attaching dark fabric to the back of your white screen. If you’re worried that your sheet will wrinkle or shift in the wind, then you can secure it with a thin frame made of wood or lightweight piping.

Set Up the Technology

Get a Great Picture and sound. Your biggest investment in your outdoor movies will be your projector. Walmart offers several affordable choices around $100. More than likely, you already have the laptop and with the addition of small external speakers, you will have incredible sound.

The gist: connect the video signal from your DVD player/laptop into the projector, then connect the audio signal from your DVD player/laptop into the speakers. Adjusting the size of your projection is as simple as moving the projector itself either closer to or farther from the screen.

Create the Mood

Consider stringing some outdoor lights to create movie magic for the night (string so it doesn’t interfere with your picture quality). Globe string lights take everything up a notch when outdoor entertaining and are less than $20 a strand. It’s an affordable luxury for creating the mood!

Comfy seating is totally required. Throw some blankets on the ground and comfy outdoor pillows. Pull in your patio furniture to keep things cozy for the adults in the crowd.

Movie snacks. Courtesy photo

Bring On the Snacks

You can’t watch the movie without POPCORN! Take your popcorn game up a level and craft up a popcorn bar for your guests. Bring out the popcorn, candy and beverages for your guests. Retro sodas and paper straws are always a hit. Center on a picnic table for easy grabbing!

There is certainly something magical about an outdoor movie. With minimal supplies and a simple, straightforward setup, you can create an outdoor theater for you and your friends. Pop some popcorn, grab a few blankets, and follow these tips to watch your favorite flick right in your own backyard.

Feel free to contact Los Alamos Interior Designer Suzette Fox to suggest specific design topics or for help with your home.

For more information, find her on Facebook at facebook.com/SuzetteFoxInteriorDesign and on her website  www.suzettefoxinteriors.com.

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