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What You Need to Host a Backyard Movie Theater Party

What you need to host a backyard theater

Did you see my post about how to build an outdoor movie screen?  I’m building up to a post on how we hosted our own Backyard Theater Party.  So, now that you are in the loop… I have had some questions about how I pulled this off and of course the big, “how much did this cost?” question.  I’m going to answer all that in this post. :)

When setting up your own backyard theater reminiscent of the old school drive in theaters, you’ll need 4 key components:

  1. Video Source
  2. Video Projector
  3. Sound System
  4. A Screen

I’m going to help you think about what you might already own that you can use and give you some ideas for where/what to buy, if you have to go that route, that won’t break the bank.

backyard movie theater set up

:: Video Source

You can use a number of items for this.  I used my laptop computer to play the DVD. Other options are items you might likely own as well, such as your home DVD player or Blu-Ray player.


:: Video Projector

Unlike the first component, this one is the one most people  do not already own.  It is also the biggest investment.  One option, besides buying, is borrowing.  If you are lucky enough to have a workplace that will loan you a projector you are in business for super cheap.  But, if that isn’t an option {as it was not for me}, Walmart has a number of options that are “affordable” as far as projectors go.  I did a lot of research and shopping around before I made my purchase.  Projector prices can vary wildly, from $300 to well over $1000.  It was like learning a whole new language when trying to determine which projector would do what I needed it to do.  My goal was to purchase a good enough projector for my needs without blowing more money than necessary.   I’m going to share what I learned in condensed form, but I’m also hyperlinking lots of other articles that I read so that you can read further if you are really interested in learning more and making a good investment. Here are a few things you should consider before dropping the cash:

  1. LCD or DLP projectors – either will work fine.  But, if you can afford a DLP projector, they generally have better brightness and contrast. {Here’s a post that explains the two well}.
  2. Brightness – go for 2000 lumens or better {a general rule of thumb is the bigger your screen, the more lumens you’ll need}
  3. Resolution – the bigger the screen the more those pixels count – look for a 720p or 1080p model {HD is a nice thing to look for as well}.

Things that don’t matter: don’t worry about whether or not the projector has built in speakers.  They are a good perk for office use, but for outdoor theater use they aren’t helpful.

projector -1

We ended up with this Optoma HD DLP 720p Home Theater for about $500 {the price wildly varies, so watch it}, it retails for over $1000.  There are many other models that fit within these parameters that are a little less though, {starting at $374} including the Acer X1220 DLP projector, this BenQ MX518 DLP projector, Sharp PG-LX2000 3D ready DLP projector.

:: Sound System

There are lots of ways to get good sound.  So, first think about what you already own {or what your friends and family already own} to get the job done. Here are a list of ideas, any will achieve the sound you need.

  1. Stereo amplifier
  2. a GOOD set of computer speakers
  3. a boom box {yep, going ol’ school} – as long as it has auxiliary outputs
  4. Home Theater in a box

There’s good chance you own one or more of these. Here’s a wonderful article about achieving sound and even has some cool tips for wire management.

DIY build a movie screen

:: The Screen

I already wrote a whole post on how you can make your own screen with a couple of bed sheets, some pvc pipe, and a few 5 gallon buckets – all for around $63 bucks.  So, go read it and set to work!

If you are looking for other options, I recommend this article and this article.  They have some other frugal ideas that you might want to use.

There you have it.  So, the real cost is the projector.  But, once you own it you can host backyard movies all you want…all summer long!  You’ll be the coolest neighbor on the block {and you’ll save yourself and your friends TONS of money on theater admission!}.

Stay tuned for my final post this week on how I hosted my first backyard movie theater party complete with all the details on how to set up an awesome concession stand and comfy kid space!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I’m a participant in the Walmart Moms Program. Walmart has provided me with a product sample and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. Participation in this program is voluntary and the opinions stated above are entirely my own.

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