Taking Back Movie Night
Avengers Endgame broke almost every box office record in its first week alone. It pulled in $350 in North America and a cool 1.2 billion worldwide. As Thor, Black Widow, Captain America, and Bruce Banner continue to fight the good fight against Thanos in IMAX 3-D. Americans fight box office crowds and astronomical ticket prices. It sort of makes a case for the backyard movie night.
What’s this backyard movie night we speak of that is taking in home entertainment to the next level? Basically, it takes a big backyard and some high-tech equipment, a backyard movie projector, and a screen. Throw in a few people and some tasty treats and you’ve got the big picture that everyone will be clamoring to see.
What Do I Need to Set Up an Outdoor Movie Night?
You could just drag the old HDTV out on the patio, but the neighbors are likely to think your air conditioner just broke and you’re trying to make the best of it. For a real movie night, you need the glow of the light, the big screen magic, and the hum of the projector – in other words, a little more sophisticated equipment. That includes a backyard movie projector, a screen, a media system to play your movie on and the best darn sound system you can rig up.
1. The Projector
With the popularity of backyard movie nights these days, finding good equipment can be easier than finding a good movie. However, while you can spend over $1000 on a projector, you can find one on Amazon that will run you quite a bit less. The real test of quality for a projector is its features. What features are necessary to show a high-quality feature film? Read on to find out.
Lumen Rating: Let There be Light
The lumen rating indicates how much light a projector can put out. The more lumens you have, the faster you can start the movie and really be able to cut through all the ambient light from street lights, and tiki lamps. How many lumens do you need for an outdoor projector? Aim for at least 2,000. As you increase to 3,000 and beyond, you’ll really understand how impactful the number of lumens can be. At 3,000 lumens, you’ll be able to start the movie right after sunset instead of waiting the extra 30 to 40 minutes for complete darkness to set in.
Maximum Screen Size: What You Need to Know When Size Matters
When you throw your outdoor party, you want to be able to go big and stay home. The rule of thumb when it comes to movies is the bigger the better. However, when you pick out your screen, throw distance needs to be taken into consideration. Maximum screen size refers to the size of the image your projector can project. Throw distance is the distance away from the screen the projector needs to project that image. A 200” screen won’t do you much good if you don’t have the room in your backyard to accommodate for it. To make sure before you buy, check out the throw distance calculator to figure out the ideal sizing for the screen you intend to use.
Resolution: Having Fun is the Most Important Resolution
On an HDTV high resolution is everything. On an outdoor movie night not so much. Remember, movie night is about fun, and fun can hide a multitude of sins – poor resolution among them. When you’re in the market for an outdoor movie projector, a bright and clear image is of prime importance. With a high lumen count and a correctly adjusted focus, you should have all the resolution you need.
The Big Picture: A Comparison
While all these features are important, it’s the big picture that counts in movie land. Although it’s true that you get what you pay for, sometimes what you pay depends on what you’re looking to get. Here is a comparison between two very different and very differently priced digital projectors and how one stacked up against the other.
What you don’t pay for is resolution quality. For an outdoor movie night, that’s a sacrifice well worth making. What the Epson VS250 is ideal for outdoor movie viewing because of its bright picture and high luminosity rating, which makes it ideal for cutting through ambient light. What it lacks in resolution is not likely to make your guests throw rotten tomatoes.
Epson HC3000 $1100
Does the Epson HC600 have great resolution? Yes. True 1080 in fact. Does it have a native 16:9 projector? Yes? Is it worth over 3 times more than the Epson VS250? For an outdoor movie night, probably not. Scrutinized closely, the HC300 is the clear winner, but outdoor movies are not about close scrutinization. Don’t rule out movie night if you can’t make the K plus.
2. The Media System
Far less important than the projector is the media system. Whether it’s on DVD or blue ray, or your laptop, the rule of thumb here, is as long as it plays your media smoothly, nobody is really going to complain much.
However, there are benefits to using a laptop that goes beyond the DVD and blue ray. Newer projectors have HDMI inputs that connect directly to laptops. With the direct connection from the projector to your laptop, you can bring your Netflix binge out in the open.
3. The Sound System
When you’re watching a movie a good sound system is the bomb. Unfortunately, 5.1 surround sound speakers will take you longer to set up than the running time of the movie. A 2.1 speaker set up, however, is far less complicated and will do the trick rather nicely.
- Take the middle receiver and two stereo speakers from your current surround sound system.
- Place the under the middle of your screen and hang the two stereo speakers on the upper left and right corners of your screen for the most realistic cinema experience.
Alternatively, you can buy a new 2.1 sound system. A receiver with a power rating of 100W per channel will give you the most bang for your buck. Check some inner geekdom from the How-To Geeks for some pro tips of sound set up.
4. The Screen
Got a bedsheet? You don’t even need to worry about a good percale count if you’re using it for your movie screen. A plain king-sized bed sheet on a clothespin line can make for a screen worthy of showing Casablanca. While you will get a better image on a store-bought screen, we say if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Bedsheets have the benefit of versatility (you can hang them almost anywhere), and the fun factor remains the same. Go pro, or go DIY, be sure to set up the projector at the right distance from the screen to get maximum coverage.
How Do I Host an Outdoor Movie Night?
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. It’s more than a courtesy announcement, it’s the three essentials of an optimal movie viewing experience. Now that you have your show figured out, the next step is finding your guests a good place to sit back and relax. Here are some options for giving every guest the “best seat in the house.”
1. Picnic Blankets and Beanbags:
Are you ready to throw down? Throw down some blankets and a few beanbags and a few people on top of them. Throw down some theatre style popcorn around your guests to take advantage of the picnic effect. (See recipe below).
2. Lawn Chairs and Loungers
For a more elevated seating arrangement, try some lawn chairs and loungers. If you have a backyard, you may already have some lying around, and they’re a lot easier on the knees than picnic blankets. Add some drinks for a more refined recline. For best results, arrange the chairs a crescent shape along the perimeter of your yard.
3. Theatre Style Popcorn
Now, it’s really time to authenticate movie night. When it comes to theatre style popcorn, it’s the more butter the better. While movie theatres use butter flavored oil, you can get the same effect using clarified butter. To make theatre style popcorn:
- Melt 2 sticks of butter in a glass measuring cup in a microwave.
- Let it sit for a minute. The butter will separate into three layers.
- Skim off the top layer of foam and pour the butter into a heatproof container. Discard the layer of milk solids at the bottom.
- Use 3 tablespoons of butter for ten cups popcorn. Refrigerate the rest.
For popcorn bag templates, click here.
How Do I Host an Outdoor Movie Night?
Difficult as it may be to believe, not everyone wants to hear the “Grease” soundtrack blast through their neighborhood while they’re trying to enjoy their dinner. Nor do they want to hear the “I’ll have what she’s having,” scene from “When Harry Met Sally.” To keep the peace, keep it PG and keep it down