Everything You Need for the Ultimate Backyard Movie Night

Everything You Need for the Ultimate Backyard Movie Night
Image: Getty
At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW - prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.

You can dodge those sticky cinema seats, provide your own snacks and have a lot of fun with a backyard movie night at your own place. Here’s everything you need to get started.

We can all watch movies from the comfort of our lounge rooms, but there’s something special about changing up the venue. Sure, that could mean going to an actual cinema (if it’s open) or a drive-in (if there’s still one nearby), but your own backyard has a whole host of advantages over either location.

You’re not stuck with the movie choice available at your local multiplex, for a start. You don’t have to deal with other people’s children, and if folks are talking during the movie, the chances are pretty good that you know them by name and can more easily tell them to shut up without a fight erupting.

Here’s what you need to make your next backyard movie night a roaring success.

Is it legal to screen movies in my own backyard?

We’ve covered this question before, but the broad answer is yes… mostly.

You have to possess some kind of title to the film in question – so you own the DVD or Blu-Ray, or have an active subscription to the streaming service because piracy is by definition not legal. You can’t charge admission, because those licences don’t cover paid performances. You’ve got to obey local noise laws, so having those three million-watt speakers pumping the chase scene from Terminator 2 to all and sundry is likely to be a no-no.

You’ve also got to keep your backyard movie experience within the definitions of “private”, so if you don’t have fences and neighbours could peer in, it’s probably not okay. You’re also bound by the law as it relates to obscene content, especially if children are present so that screening of Debbie Does Dallas is going to have to happen indoors.

Can I show a cartoon before my backyard movie screens?

Absolutely – subject to the same conditions as above – and you should, because it’s a fine old cinema tradition that’s sadly all but dead save for Pixar movies these days. Whether you want to go the full retro experience and run an old school newsreel as well is up to you.

What do I need for backyard movies?

At the very least you’re going to need some kind of projector, some kind of screen and some kind of content. You can totally go down the DIY route for a home movie screen with little more than a white sheet, although commercial alternatives with better stands are also readily available.

There’s a lot you can do to bring the movies to your backyard, and plenty to consider. Here are some suggested products to turn your outdoor space into a film lover’s dream.


Nebula’s Capsule Smart mini Projector, $488 (usually $699).

First things first, you need a projector. Depending on how much you want to spend, a decent quality mini projector starts around the $50/$60 mark, like Prime’s Centre LCD Portable Mini Projector, $67.99. However, if you’ve got a little more cash to burn, and are keen to make backyard movies a Sunday night tradition, it could be worth investing in a top-tier projector like the Nebula’s Capsule Smart mini Projector, $488 (usually $699).

Projector Screens

Elite Screens Yard Master ($328.27)

Next up, you’ll need a projector screen to project the movie on. There are two types of projector screens you can pick up for relatively cheap, a free-standing one and a wall-mounted one. First, we suggest measuring your space to make sure it’ll fit in the backyard, especially if you plan on mounting it to the wall. Once that’s sorted, all you have to do is decide how much cash you’re going to invest. You can pick up a simple foldable screen like this one from UTSLIVE. It’s 120-inches, light-weight, affordable ($33) and easy enough to hang in the backyard.

If you’re looking for something a little more mid-range, this one from HOIN ($120) should do the trick. It’s a 100-inch, 16:9 HD 4K screen and comes with a stand. If you’re really looking to invest in your set-up, might we suggest the Elite Screens Yard Master ($328.27)? It’s 120-inches, made from high-quality material and is easily assembled. Plus, with a name like Yard Master, how could you go wrong?

Sound Bars

Yamaha SR-B20A Sound Bar with Built-in Dual Subwoofer ($220, usually $299)

Your outdoor cinema is going to need high-quality sound which is easily achieved with a soundbar speaker. Depending on your budget, and how much surround sound you enjoy, you could get away with a cheaper soundbar like the ASIYUN 2 X 5W Mini Bluetooth Sound Bar ($69.93).

However, if you’re looking for a high-quality speaker you can’t go past the Yamaha SR-B20A Sound Bar with Built-in Dual Subwoofer ($220, usually $299). Aside from producing top-tier sound, its immersive, app-controlled and offers four different sounds settings.


Log in to comment on this story!