by Jenni Barnett on Friday, November 11th, 2022 at 11:00am.
Watching a movie in your back yard with your family and friends is a fun, memorable way to make the most of your outdoor space. We’re fortunate to live in Middle Tennessee, where the beautiful weather makes it ideal for cuddling up beneath the stars throughout many months of the year.
Whether you plan to keep it simple with just the essentials or go all-in making the ultimate home theater setup, we’ll walk you through your options and make recommendations to help you achieve success.
While there are projectors that play sound, their onboard speakers offer poor projection and lack any richness of tone. Instead, we recommend that you purchase speakers along with your projector and screen. You can use your existing digital media hub for your backyard theater, which will enable you to easily stream your usual content.
Choosing a Projector
While there are numerous options for cheap projectors, their image quality and longevity are shabby when compared to even an entry-level projector from a company like Epson. Choose refurbished options directly from the company if you’d like to save a few hundred dollars. Epson offers outstanding customer care, and their projectors are repairable and have replaceable bulbs.
Choosing a Screen
Most people opt for an easy-to-store mobile projector screen for their backyard theater setups. Inflatable screens are another option, but they are loud due to the blowers required to keep them pumped up. If you’ve been near a bouncy castle, you know what we’re talking about!
If you’re going to keep your theater set up in a covered area for most of the year, a fixed-frame projector screen is an elegant (if more costly) alternative.
You’ll have to plug in several pieces of equipment, so purchase a high-quality extension cord and power strip to support your setup.
Your sound system can run the gamut from a pair of wireless speakers all the way to a wired surround sound setup. If you have a smaller back yard, or plan to stick to hosting small audiences, you will be able to get away with fewer, less powerful speakers. In fact, a single pair of robust wireless speakers will work perfectly, so skip the fancy soundbar unless you have tested your audio and are sure you need it.
If you want a water-resistant option, we recommend all-weather loudspeakers linked via an A/C receiver. The sky is the limit if you go this route, with a full surround-sound array providing an incredible audio experience.
Because you won’t have a controlled acoustic surrounding to ensure that sound is bounced back to the viewers, it’s important to keep your speakers close. Aim them at the seating area, with the goal of a balanced audio level that respects your neighbors without making it difficult to hear the movie.
Choosing a Prime Location
While you’ll be watching your movie at dusk or after dark, you’ll want to ensure that light sources (e.g. street lamps and light from your neighbor’s back yard) won’t interfere with your projected image. Likewise, ambient traffic sounds may interfere with your audio setup, so choose the quietest spot possible.
If you plan to use your usual Wi-Fi-powered media projection hub, you’ll need a strong Wi-Fi signal. If your signal is weak outdoors, use a boosting hub to ensure that you have a full-strength connection.
Furniture and Lighting
While there’s nothing wrong with throwing down waterproof picnic blankets and some cushions and calling it a day, the ultimate backyard theater is complete with warm, comfortable furniture. Keep it simple with reclining patio chairs, casual with fluffy bean bags, or elegant with outdoor sofas.
While bright lights will interfere with your viewing experience, a source of warm, dim light will allow your group to move around safely and find their snacks with ease. Amber rope lights, suspended strand lanterns, and wired lawn lights are all excellent choices.
Concessions and Comfort Items
A small concession stand with candy, popcorn, chips, and a cooler packed with soda and beers are essentials for a fun viewing experience.
Set out baskets with blankets, insect repellent, and water near the seating. Guests will appreciate being able to grab these items as needed around dusk, or anytime thirst strikes.
While the initial shopping and setup will take some time, the benefits of having a backyard movie theater will make your efforts worthwhile. Entertain your friends, throw birthday parties for your children, and make memories anytime the weather is favorable. In Middle Tennessee, your outdoor theater will serve you most of the year, especially if your setup is weather-proof.
If your setup is easily portable, you can take it with you on camping trips, on visits to family, and to your next home without breaking a sweat. On the other hand, if you choose to install a more permanent option, a good theater setup will add value to your property, especially in view of how much residents of our region adore spending time outside.
Residents of Middle Tennessee, have you set up a backyard movie theater at your home? We would love to hear all about your successful setup strategies in the comments below.