The equipment: This is the expensive part. To purchase the projection equipment would cost well over a thousand dollars. I recommend renting, at least for the first time. You will need:
- Screen - Create your own movie screen by using an inexpensive, king-size , flat, white bed sheet. Tack the top and bottom onto thin strips of wood and attach it to the side of your house. If you have a portable screen from your days with slide shows and home movies, great! Or, find a place that will loan you theirs.
- Sound and Projection System - You'll need a home theater-in-a-box system including speakers and DVD player that is powerful enough to broadcast outside. You'll also need a video projector to connect to the DVD player in order to project the movie. Use 6-foot wooden stakes to mount your speakers around your seating area. Or if you have access to a projector, bring it outside. Sometimes you can rent a projector from a local college, high school or middle school. Hook up a laptop or DVD player to the projector.
- Seating - Gather all your lawn chairs and have guests bring their own. You might consider setting up blankets for seating too. You'll want to put down a camping tarp first, to keep off the damp. Weight the corners with sandbags. Anything heavy will do, but you want it to be something the dew won't damage. If you want to go all out, set up some air matresses for guests to lounge on.
- Extras - Have a big laundry basket full of sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, and throws. Have another smaller basket with a few flashlights to help guests make their way inside to the restroom.
The snacks: Target has those big boxes of movie candy (the kind that sells at the theater for $2.50 and up) for $1 each. Popcorn is a must. If you have a popcorn machine, even better. Many churches and schools own their own commercial poppers and might let you borrow or rent it. Of course, most rental stores have them, too. I am going to try to find one or two of those old fashioned air poppers. I'll ask friends and check thrift stores. For fun, check Target or your local party supply store for paper popcorn boxes. You might even go for the big time with hot dogs and nachos served in red plastic baskets. You'll want a cooler full of sodas and juice boxes and maybe even ice cream sandwiches. YUM!
Tips: The larger the screen, the better the view. Test your theater set up first to make sure everything works properly before the guests arrive. If you can be sure of the weather, I think it would be fun to have a family movie night on the night before the big party. You could order a pizza and watch the home videos that you would never subject your friends to. You will definitely need bug spray - lots of it.
Further Fun: A backyard drive-in movie can be a pretty simple process. For your first one, you might just go with the basics. My own entertaining philosophy is usually in for a penny, in for a pound. If you love to plan parties, or just have a personality that is prone to excess, here are some more ideas for you.
- If you are going to spend the money to set this all up, you might as well go ahead and set the tone with fun invitations. Include real-looking movie tickets in the invitation with instructions to bring the tickets for admittance to the movie.
- You might even have a door prize drawing using the ticket stubs. Wal-Mart always has a $5 movie bin and a fun family DVD would make a great movie night prize.
- Start the movie night with a selection of vintage drive-in advertisements.
- Have your children (or adults who are not easily embarrassed) film an intermission video to show.
- Plaster the path to the backyard with vintage movie posters.
- You might have a few younger family members dress up as theater ushers to take tickets and offer to spray the guests with bug spray.
- Serve old-fashioned snacks in drive-in style containers: plastic baskets, paper boxes, paper cups and bendy straws.
Final thoughts: To purchase the projection equipment could cost well over a thousand dollars. I recommend renting, at least for the first time. I found some local information about renting, but it still seemed expensive to me (about $125 for one day). I thought of a few things that might make the expense more justified:
- A family drive-in movie would make a humdinger of a birthday party, especially if it were followed by a kids-only camp out.
- One family could offer to host and arrange the party, but split the rental expense with several families.
- Speaking of splitting the expenses, this would make a great neighborhood block party.
- This could be a terrific fund-raiser for your church or school group. Even if you only charge for the snacks you should be able to cover your rental and still make a little money.
- If you are the owner of a sturdy, large-ish deck (or level spot in the yard), a BIG TV, a DVD player, an extension cord, and a small crowd, why don't you save a small fortune and just move everything outside?
Whether you host a backyard drive-in movie or not, I hope this post has inspired you. I hope you will take the time to make some fun and do something out-of-the-ordinary this summer. Happy summering!
By the way, I didn't forget the movie itself. I imagine choosing it will be the most fun you have. Or, maybe the most stressful part of all this. Coming next week, my own list of wonderful summer movies. In the mean time, click here and here for lists of "classic" movies that once played at drive-in theaters across the country.