Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Fun: Backyard Drive-In

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Once upon a hot summer night, 
we turned our backyard into a theater...
Outdoor movie night, projector, backyard drive in, marquee letter, summer fun
...And it was pretty awesome!

The Plan:
We have a BBQ around the 4th of July every year to kick off the summer and celebrate my birthday on the 5th. This year however, there were a few more issues to consider. For one, I am 8 months pregnant and though I have a network of amazing family and friends who always pitch in to help at every event, hostessing is always a bit strenuous. Gone are the days when a folding table, solos cups, ping pong balls, and a keg were enough to supply for adequate party entertainment (sayonara!) The goal this year then became to make it as easy and chill as possible, so we forwent the usual mid-afternoon through evening BBQ and decided on a movie night. My head was filled with visions of patterned blankets and lawn chairs all done up with the vintage flair a la this pin that I fell in LOVE with on Pinterest months ago.

With lots of research I discovered that an actual projection screen or black out fabric in white (like the kind that is used for black out curtains) are ideal, but many people said a bed sheet works just fine. I really wanted a good image to make it worthwhile for my guests, so most of the research time went into finding a good, entry level projector. After reading some posts on sites such as this, I learned that projectors are pretty pricey and if you want a good one, higher lumens create the best visibility. For outdoor purposes, 2000 lumens or better will give you a near movie theater quality picture, even on a bed sheet. There are companies that will rent out the whole kit-n-caboodle too, with a blow up screen and all, but it still ends up costing about the same as you would spend on the projector. After much comparing and digging, I decided on the ViewSonic PJD5134. It has 3000 lumens of brightness, is Blu Ray and 3D compatible (with a Blu Ray or 3D DVD Player hooked up) and it got really great reviews. Check it out: ViewSonic Projector.

The Set-Up:
The last piece of our puzzle was hooking up some audio. A friend of mine had a set of speakers with a sub woofer that connected with one chord to the back of the projector. They're similar to any speakers that you would buy to use with a computer or projector, and are a definite necessity. My husband and I decided to test everything out on the 4th of July and were a bit apprehensive. Could it really be as easy as it seems??

IT WAS! We ran some electric from our garage to a power strip, plugged in the projector and decided to use his Playstation 3 as our Blu Ray player (you can just as easily hook the projector up to a laptop, or standard DVD or Blu Ray player too.) All it took was an HDMI cable, which we already had, connecting from the back of the PS3 to the Projector. Once everything was powered up and connected, we fired it up and it took care of the rest. The image projected was already the perfect size for a queen bed sheet folded in half (we ran a rope between our fence and garage and just draped it over, then staked the bottom two corners so it wouldn't blow in the breeze.) It might take a little time to find the right distance and placement for the projector, but if that's the hardest thing you'll have to do I'd say it's a pretty easy set-up.

Light up letter, marquee letter, DIY, outdoor movie
        Here's a picture of our trial run watching King Arthur. 
      The ripples are only there because we didn't stake
      the corners this time around. I wish the image did it 
       justice, but you just have to take my word for it- the 
       image is pretty much drive in movie theater quality.
Setting the Mood: It's all about presentation.
Being the visual person that I am, I couldn't waste an opportunity to decorate and cozy things up a bit. I already had the marquee letter "H", which I made out of mat board, oak tag, some masking tape and metallic paint (tutorial coming soon!) It even fooled a few of my friends who thought it was metal! I made sure my guests knew that we would be forgoing dinner for a later start time and movie theater goodies (we had planned to light up the fire pit too and make some s'mores, but we were under an excessive heat warning...) Still it was a great night.

The dollar store is a great place to stock up on
all your movie theater candy faves!
Family Fun for All!
Everyone had a blast and couldn't believe

how clear the picture was while we kicked

off our first of many movie night showings
with "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

(Violet especially loved the snack stand.)

We're looking forward to many more
opportunities to make a new tradition:
we're thinking a scary movie on Halloween,
a girls night "Dirty Dancing" showing, maybe
we can even move into the garage for a
Christmas movie night complete with
Snuggies and hot chocolate! The possibilities
are endless. I hope you find a way to DIY-
you won't regret it!


  1. This is such a cool idea! I am seriously going to look into doing something like this myself....thanks for sharing! I think the snack stand was awesome and the whole thing is a great new tradition to start with your family...

  2. Thanks so much! Let me know how it goes and if you have any questions. I did a ton of research beforehand and it really exceeded our expectations in every way (minus the heat wave and mosquitoes)

  3. I love this idea!
    My dad has an old projector and tons of film of us kids growing up. I think we need to have a throw back night out back ;)

    1. That is awesome. Every time I watch "National Lampoons Christmas Vacation" (that scene where he's stuck in the attic and bundles up in all the old clothes watching old reels from Christmas past) I wish that I had some of my own to watch. I just love the vintage feel. I even found an app that records with the same ticking sound and fuzziness that I play with all the time. Let me know how it goes!!

  4. Definitely give it try. Perfect for a fall night :)

  5. Love this! So fun-- making beautiful memories :)
    Good job Mama!


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