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How to Plan an Outdoor Movie Night

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

An outdoor movie night is a unique way to spend fun, quality time with your friends and family. Whether you're a horror fan or prefer romantic comedies, enjoying the silver screen under the stars is a wonderful way to spend an evening.

While organizing an outdoor movie night takes a bit of planning, it's well worth it — and we're here to help. From the big picture setup to some minor details to make the night magical, we've got plenty of ideas to help you create a picture-perfect night.

What Equipment Do You Need for Outdoor Movie Night?

A successful outdoor movie night requires equipment to play the films you've chosen and keep your guests comfortable. Here's what you'll need for a memorable backyard movie party:

  • Chairs: One of the first things you want to think about is seating. Generally, putting down thick blankets with pillows to sit on is the easiest idea for a group of people. If you plan to screen more than one movie, you may want to ask each guest to bring their own lawn chairs so they can be more comfortable.

  • Screen and projector: The simplest way to make sure your movie selection looks and sounds as it should is by renting a screen and projector. This way, you get quality gear without having to invest in your own personal equipment.

  • Lighting: Soft lighting can create a glowing ambiance that makes the night feel magical. Harsh lights from street lamps or neighbors could interfere with your experience. Consider utilizing an event lighting service for professional flair and elegance.

  • Snacks: The snacks you provide could be as simple as classic popcorn or as extravagant as a taco bar. The choice of refreshments is totally up to your preferences. Keep in mind how many people will be attending to ensure everyone can have a little bit of everything you provide.

  • Blankets: Even on the warmest summer nights, it can get a bit chilly when the sun goes down. Be sure to offer blankets to your guests to ensure they stay warm and comfortable throughout each movie — or remind them to bring their own.

  • Sound system: Make sure all of your guests can hear the movies as clearly as possible. A sound system is the best way to control the sound so that everyone on your property can hear it — and your neighbors can't. Additionally, leave the subtitles on.

  • Electricity: If you're going to host the night away from home, be sure you have access to electricity and enough outlets for the equipment.

  • Pest control: It can be easy to forget about pest control for outdoor movies. However, you're going to have a more enjoyable time when you don't have bugs bothering you and your guests. If you set out food, bugs are especially inclined to show up. Consider buying citronella candles, a repellant plant or offer some bug spray.

  • Movies: Of course, you can't forget the best part! If you need some outdoor movie ideas, ask your friends and family what they'd like to see before the night begins. As a tip, it's usually best to choose a family-friendly movie when children are in attendance, neighbors may see or hear your film or you're not sure what everyone likes.

Where Should You Host an Outdoor Movie Night?

Throwing a backyard movie night can be a blast. The comfort of your own home certainly has its advantages, but it may not be the best location for your movie night. The best place to host your movie party will depend on specific factors, like:

  • Parking: If you're going to invite several people, you'll have to make sure everyone can fit in your driveway or yard.

  • Visibility: Seeing the screen is crucial when watching a movie. Ensure you have enough room to set up all of the equipment and seat everyone comfortably without impacting how well people can see the films.

  • Restrooms: Make sure your guests will have access to at least one bathroom throughout your movie night.

  • Seating: No one wants to crane their necks to be able to watch the screen, and you don't want to force anyone to be too far away, either. Try testing out different seating arrangements until you figure out the perfect one for your space.

  • Lighting: Remember that lighting makes a difference in how you'll experience the movies. Make sure to wait until the sun has fully set to begin the first movie. When arranging the lighting, ensure it won't cause a glare on the screen — but double-check that guests can see well enough to see where they're going.

  • Electricity: If you decide to host your movie night somewhere other than your home, you'll need to visit the location at least once to ensure you have enough outlets.

Create an Outdoor Movie Setting

Now that you have your guest list, equipment, setting and refreshments ready to go, you need to set everything up to create an amazing outdoor film screening.


Try to have the seating, screen and projector set up by the time guests start arriving. This way, you can focus on greeting guests and getting the food prepared. Plus, guests will appreciate having a place to sit and set down their belongings after they get there. If your event is starting well before starting the movie, consider putting on some music to greet guests.

Set aside a table or two for refreshments. This area can be inside or outside — just make sure it's accessible. After setting out the food, stock the table with plates, utensils, napkins and cups. If you're serving several dishes, you may also want to provide to-go boxes.

To set the scene, ensure all of the party lighting is turned on — and now, you're ready to hit play!


Do you want to go the extra mile with your movie night? Try hosting an outdoor movie party with a theme. Maybe you're planning on showing a heartwarming classic like “Toy Story,” or want to take a trip to the Shire by screening “The Lord of the Rings” series. Jazz up the night by dressing up as your favorite characters!

If you don't want to put together a costume, find another way to create an awesome theme. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Watch “Jaws” from your pool.

  2. Serve Italian food to accompany a screening of “The Godfather.”

  3. Tie balloons around the yard to set the scene when you're watching “Up.”

  4. Ask everyone to bring a southern dish to share while watching “Forrest Gump.”

  5. Create a “Lion King” themed party with zebra cakes and pizza with a lion face made of pepperoni.

The options are endless when creating a fun theme that everyone can enjoy.

Bring Your Event to Life With Illuminating Design

Hosting a fantastic movie night for your family and friends will surely create memories you won't forget. At Illuminating Design, we create memories worth repeating — we've been creating beautiful settings for events for over 15 years, using the best products and delivering the best experiences for every occasion.

Illuminating Design has several rental packages to ensure you have all you need for your fun night. To see what we can do for you, learn more about our projector and movie screen rentals or checkout out our lighting rentals to bring elegance to any event in Atlanta.


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