Everything You Need to Create a Magical Backyard Movie Night

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Erica Buehler

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Published on June 30, 2021

There are so many reasons to love summertime: the warm weather, vacation mindset, and often putting those two together in some form of outdoor entertainment, whether on your balcony or in your backyard. And one of our fave ways to soak in lazy summer evenings is a backyard movie night, complete with your favorite snacks, cozy seating, and the perfect tech to bring the theater outdoors. 

In fact, we love them so much, we decided to get our styling game on and create our very own outdoor movie set-up to inspire you. Havenly Designer Melissa Wagner takes you behind-the-scenes and shares her advice for creating a memorable backyard movie night.

Backyard movie set-up

Start with the Essentials

Obviously, you’re going to need a little bit of electronic input to watch your movie of choice. Instead of lugging a television outdoors or fussing with wall mounts, a fantastic way to bring the theater to your backyard is by investing in a screen and projector. “First things first, you need the equipment! We love this projector screen for outdoor movie nights, and you can easily source the projector itself from any tech store or online source,” says Wagner. 

But, if the idea of purchasing a projector screen isn’t exactly within your budget, there are definitely wallet-friendly workarounds. “If you don’t want to splurge on a screen, simply stretch out a flat white bed sheet between two trees and a couple of steaks in the ground! Or you can even hang the sheet on the side of your home.” Easy and awesome, our favorite combo.

Outdoor movie layout

Set the Scene

Once you’ve got your movie-watching essentials figured out, you definitely need to focus on getting comfortable. After all, while the great outdoors are great, they aren’t always soft and cushy! 

A make-shift seating area is essential for cozying up for your backyard matinee (particularly for those of us in the 25+ age category). “Since you’re experiencing a film sans-theater seating, it’s important to create a comfortable area that you can enjoy for a couple of hours,” says Wagner. “Layer up a bunch of blankets, pillows, poufs, more blankets, and stools or short tables for snacks and beverages that will need a steady surface.”

But as we’re sure you know, the comfort of a movie theater isn’t only about soft seating: it’s about lighting, ambiance, and feeling relaxed in an environment where you can focus entirely on what you’re watching. The same goes for your backyard movie night! Harsh, bright lights or lackluster surroundings can cause some distractions from your feature film.

Comfortable outdoor movie pillows

“We recommend adding clusters of lanterns with candles or party globe lights strung from tree to tree. Since it’ll be dusk or nighttime, you can set a cozy and relaxing environment with easy, low lighting. As an added bonus: turn off any motion-sensor lights so they don’t flip on everytime your next door neighbor’s little kid has to run inside to use the bathroom.”

Stylish Patio Pillows

Special Details Go NOTICED

Maybe your movie night is also part of a special occasion: a relaxing wind-down to a fun-filled birthday party or holiday, or just a summer celebration. Either way, putting a little thought into your decor can certainly go a long way for enhancing your movie screening. 

“We’re major fans of a beautiful floral moment,” Wager notes. “Add some lovely details to your theater setup with simple floral arrangements, bunches of balloons in a single color, or large vases filled with pampas grasses.” Vibrant floral arrangements (big or small!) like the ones used to create this Havenly-designed backyard movie night are a perfect nod to summertime color and fun, and are a playful way to add color to your neutral blanket-and-pillow theater.

Backyard movie snacks

Don’t Forget the Sweets

You didn’t think we’d put together a backyard movie night guide without covering the most important part, did you? Snacks and treats are pretty much essential to any movie-watching experience, whether just you and your fam, or entertaining your whole friend crew. Because is a movie without popcorn really even a thing?

“It doesn’t take much to make our bellies happy,” says Wagner, who helped curate the perfect Havenly movie night smorgasbord. “Here, we’re completely satisfied with a backyard delivery of margarita pizzas, plenty of our favorite movie candies, and salty snacks to even it all out. Fill various vessels that you already own with goodies—an “arrangement” of Red Vines in a short vase and oversized bowls of popcorn and pretzels are a must! Make sure you have smaller bowls for serving nearby.” 

Moreover, a backyard movie night is the perfect time to embrace nostalgic childhood rebellion and play with your food a little. Colorful candies like M&Ms and jelly bellies are not only tasty treats, but will add pops of color to your setup. “Gather little dishes for sweets and fill glasses with sparkling water (hello, Topo Chico!), citrus slices, and another movie night must: silly straws! Use baskets to carry out back-up snacks and drink refills for later, and flat or rounded platters to hold everyone’s consumables.”

A superb part about having or hosting a backyard movie night is that nothing has to be too complicated—so your food shouldn’t be, either! Feel free to ditch the diet and grab whatever calls to you from the candy and chips aisle at the grocery store or, if you’re feeling inspired, take inspiration from the featured movie. 

“Our snacks of choice may be perfect for a Willy Wonka night, but if your feature film is, say, Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, order an array of sushi for takeout! Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Serve up your local bakery’s best pastry selection. James Bond marathon? Keep the dirty martinis coming. Shaken. Not stirred.”

Feeling inspired to create a host-worthy backyard set up, or up the entertainment ante in home? We get you. And we can help. Take our style quiz to find the perfect designer.

Modern backyard patio table

Words by Erica Buehler