How To Build An Outdoor Movie Theater

Aug 20, 2020

Category: Gear

Summer might be coming to a close, but there’s always time to head outdoors with your family and friends. If you’re a film buff, that can mean stepping away from your precious entertainment center for the night, allowing you to revel in the intricacies of nature, fuel your adventurous soul, and get some much-needed exposure to those necessary UV rays. But what if we told you that you could do all of those things while catching up on your favorite films, shows, and media subscriptions?

That’s right — with an outdoor entertainment and movie area, you’ll be able to bask in the gloriousness of your favorite nature-laden locale without sacrificing hours in front of the screen. Whether you’re planning to binge an entire season of that newly-released Netflix show, or complete that trilogy that your film-savvy friends have been telling you about, a backyard abode catered to cinematic endeavors is never a bad idea. Like anything, creating said abode can take a bit of work, research, and effort, so we’re here to give you a general idea of what it is you’ll need to create the perfect outdoor theater. Below, we’ll dive into the projectors, screens, sound/audio devices, and accessories that will enhance your upcoming viewing party. But be warned, your guests might dub your home the “coolest” hang-out spot in town.

Before The Backyard Curtain Call

Things To Consider

Before you go out and buy the biggest screen you can find, invest in the finest projector available, and start drilling holes into your exterior wall to mount your newly-purchased soundbar, there are some things you need to think about. Do you want your outdoor entertainment center to be mobile? Are there overhangs/obstacles that will get in the way of you and viewers’ lines of sight? Where does the sun rise in the morning and set in the afternoon? How close is the nearest outlet? There are a lot of things that you’ll need to take into account before you create the perfect outdoor theater.

First, ensure that you have ample space for the screen that you’re going to set up. If you’re already on the market for a projector, research its aspect ratio and resolution output, as well as the distance that you’ll need to set it from the surface of your screen to get an optimal image. This will factor into the size and type of screen that you should buy. As stated earlier, ensure that any overhangs and awnings aren’t going to impede on your screen’s performance. If you’re planning on utilizing the projector under an overhang, you’ll need adequate space to do so. Once you’ve got that squared away, create a blueprint of how you’d like to utilize all of the various pieces of your build. Will the projector be near an outlet? If not, you’ll need to remedy that within extension cord or portable outlet system. How will you and your guests partake in the outdoor viewing experience? Planning around seating, a centralized refreshment area, and other factors can save you a lot of headaches down the line.

Finally, you’ll want to factor weather into your equation. What’s your plan to deter wind, protect your gear from a sudden downpour, or isolate yourself from the heat of the day? Obviously, erring toward weather-resistant devices is key to making the most out of your outdoor experience. If you’re planning on building up and breaking down your theater setup for each and every use, however, you’ll be fine with more traditional components. Regardless of your own unique complications and intentions, creating an outdoor theater area can be an enlightening experience — and once it’s done, it’ll be difficult to head back indoors. Now that we’ve got some of the initial brainstormings out of the way, let’s dive into the items that you’ll need to amplify your backyard theater.

Projectors

The Most Important Ingredient

Projectors are the centerpiece of your outdoor entertainment area. Without them, your prospective movie night would probably never happen, causing all of your hard work to go down the drain almost as quickly as it was conceptualized. Luckily, these nostalgic devices have covered a lot of ground in recent years, adopting new technologies, greater high-definition capabilities, and interesting quirks that set them apart from one another. While almost any modern projector can get the job done, there are a handful of notable options that set the standard for resolution, clarity, sound quality, and design — all of which you should take into account when picking out your new short-throw specimen.

TMY Projector

If you’re hoping to build the quintessential outdoor entertainment center, you’re going to need a projector that can get the job done in various ways. Luckily, the TMY Projector handles every type of media projection with inherent ease, thanks to its variable resolutions, ultra-clear playback, and sleek exterior. While Its construction is nothing to write home about, the TMY boasts an updated illumination algorithm that allows its luminance to stay uniform, even toward the edge of the screen. Whether you’re trying to project or stream media in the device’s native 720P format or utilize its 1080P Full HD, you’ll be happy to hear that its 4500 Lux LED light source is one of the most dependable on the market, complementing your favorite 100-inch projection screen for an affordable, entry-level price.

Purchase: $130

Optoma HD142X

The Optoma HD142X is a significant jump from the aforementioned projector, and that’s reflected in its price. With a variable “screen size” that can span surfaces up to 107 inches, this 3,000 ANSI-lumen model is more than capable of projecting your favorite media, thanks to its trusted Texas Instruments 0.65” 1080p DC3 DMD chip DLP technology, 23,000:1 contrast ratio, and dual HDMI ports. Since you’re going to want to pair some nice audio peripherals with this device, it even features a 3.5mm audio-out, allowing you to connect a pair of headphones, a soundbar, or an outdoor speaker system. But beware, you’re going to want to keep the HD142X protected from harsh weather — humidity, extreme cold, or moderate heat will likely affect your viewing experience in an adverse way.

Purchase: $1,066

BenQ DLP HD

BenQ is a trusted name within the world of home entertainment, and when it comes to modern projectors, they’ve got everything you need for your next social get-together. To keep your favorite movies crisp, clear, and beautiful, the brands W1070 DLP HD projector offers 3D-compatible 1080P Full HD image display on surfaces up to 200 inches, meaning that you’ll be able to partake in high-definition cinema in a way that few competitors can match. Calling upon Texas Instruments’ native 1080P DarkChip3 DLP technology, a 10,000:1 contrast ratio, and over 2000 lumens of brightness, this intuitive platform should fulfill all of your needs as you head outdoors for some summer cinema. But that’s not all; the device is also conscious of its power consumption. Thanks to BenQ’s included SmartEco technology, you’ll be able to watch up to 6,000 hours of your favorite media without having to worry about shutting it off or putting it into standby mode — it’ll do it itself when it senses that you’ve been away for too long, effectively prolonging lamp life.

Purchase: $1,300

Epson Home Cinema

If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line projector that can handle any type of media, the Epson Home Cinema 3020 is the device for you. If the name didn’t persuade you, you’ll be delighted to hear that a color and light brightness of 2,300 lumens, 40,000:1 contrast ratio, and 3D-compatible technology make it one of the most sought-after projectors for 3D media reproduction, today. It even has the ability to translate some of your favorite films, shows, and channels from 2D into 3D, giving it a leg-up on its competition in terms of raw capability. The fact that you’ll be able to partake in said 3D media with not one, but two pairs of included RF 3D glasses is just a cherry on top.

Purchase: $1,500

Projector Screens

Provide The Perfect Surface

The truth is, your top-of-the-line projector can only take your outdoor viewing party so far. What’s the point of throwing up a magnificent 4K film for your friends and family, when the entire experience might be squandered by the horrible contrasts and shadows of a brick wall, an uneven surface, or horrible vignetting? That’s why you’ll need to invest in a high-quality projector screen. These tailor-made models act as a smooth, wrinkle-free surface for your media, and come in various sizes, shapes, and dimensions catered toward your recommended display parameters. Essentially, they act as a “movie screen” for your outdoor area, mimicking their larger theatrical brethren.

TaoTronics Projector Screen

TaoTronics knows what it takes to provide customers with affordable options for their in-home (and outdoor) entertainment centers. To keep your recently-purchased projector at the top of its game, the brand has introduced its very own projector screen, offering buyers a wrinkle-free experience that’s both easy to clean and care for. You’ll be able to set this screen up in under two minutes thanks to its intuitive, screw-less design, meaning that you’ll be able to partake in its 160-degree viewing angle, anti-reflective qualities, and sleek, low-profile construction at the drop of a dime. If it gets a bit windy, don’t fret; a stable, premium PVC structure and tripod support stand will keep things functionally-planted.

Purchase: $110

GPX Indoor/Outdoor

If you’re looking for a projector screen that was built to amplify both the indoor, and outdoor viewing area, the GPX Indoor/Outdoor is for you. A 16:9 aspect ratio widescreen surface allows you to present your friends and family with your favorite photos, games, movies, or shows, without having to worry about wrinkles, abnormal illumination areas, and questionable construction. Utilizing a glorious 70-inch screen area, the GPX Indoor/Outdoor is a surefire surface that’ll make any viewing party complete, especially since it’s lightweight, easily built/torn down, and transported, thanks to its unique single-piece frame.

Purchase: $180

VIVOHOME Outdoor Inflatable Projector Screen

VIVOHOME wants to take your outdoor viewing experience to new heights with this gigantic inflatable projector screen. Whether you’re planning a summer party with friends, or a more intimate cinematic binge with your significant other, the brand’s deluxe outdoor screen features a durable 210-denier Oxford cloth construction, weather-resistant materials, and a handy-bag that makes setup and tear-down a breeze. If you’re worried about inclement weather, you’ll be able to utilize VIVOHOME’s included tether system, yard stakes, and free-standing mount to keep things grounded, allowing you to partake in either 14 -or 18-foot screen sizes without having to worry about the safety of your equipment. The best part? An 85-watt air blower is included in each and every package, letting you inflate/deflate your screen in minutes. If the thought of an ultra-portable media powerhouse that can be deployed in record time isn’t your thing, then you might want to move on to our next pick.

Purchase: $210

Elite Screens Yard Master 2

Elite Screens knows what it takes to create the genre’s most appealing outdoor (and indoor) projection screens, and with a product name like the Yard Master 2, you know that you’re about to get your money’s worth. Not only does this magnificent, 135-inch example boast a satisfying 16:9 aspect ratio, a dependable silver aluminum frame, and 160-degree viewing angle, but it’s also one of the most tailor-made offerings in the industry, thanks to its “CineWhite” screen material, 4K- and 3D-capable construction, and mildew resistance, making it perfect for outdoor use. Due to its simplistic nature, the Yard Master 2 can be set up in a matter of minutes and can be secured to a number of surfaces via its ground stakes, rigging cord, and support rings. Better yet, it’s able to be fully tensioned, meaning that you won’t have to worry about unsightly wrinkles or uneven projection surfaces. If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line projection screen that’s been built to enhance your outdoor viewing experience (and you aren’t worried about cost), this is the option for you.

Purchase: $300

Sound & Audio

The Other Half Of The Equation

Audio can be one of the most important aspects of a film. Although undervalued, it’s prudent that you look into ways that you’ll be able to adapt the audio coming out of your projector’s speaker system, especially when said audio is often faint, low-quality, and sometimes, unintelligible. Naturally, this section will lend itself to the speaker systems, subwoofers, and soundbars that will help you get the most out of your projector’s audible range, allowing you to hear every single boom, bang, and crack for an even more immersive experience.

BYL BESTISAN

One of the most important aspects of any cinematic experience is audio reproduction, so you’re going to want to spend your time and money investing in something that can get the job done, while still being tailored or a large outdoor space. The first item on our audio-focused list is none other than BYL’s BESTISAN — a soundbar that’s been built to cater toward Bluetooth and wired projector setups. It produces deep, rich bass notes, clean treble, and improved voice due to its DSP technology, which allows you to choose between different audio “presets” depending on your current situation. Still not enough? The BESTISAN is also fully customizable, meaning that you’ll be able to tailor its bass, treble, and mid-levels to your liking. Hook it up to your favorite system via Bluetooth 5.0, or utilize its 360-degree sound through a wired connection — the choice is yours.

Purchase: $70

VIZIO SB2920-C6

VIZIO has a knack for creating some of the best entertainment-focused gear in the industry, and while their strengths lie in actual television development, they offer some of the most attractive sound and audio options around. The brand’s SB2920-C6, for example, boasts a 95-decibel range, a frequency of 70 Hertz to 19 KHertz, and built-in Bluetooth that allows you to move/utilize it where your heart desires. Obviously, this includes the outdoor area, where you’re going to be able to partake in its sound-boosting characteristics, premium DTS Studio Sound, and DTS Tru Volume to keep you at the edge of your seat. Not convinced? What if we told you that the SB2920-C6 offers impeccable sound performance with less than 1% harmonic distortion? We’ll make an audiophile of you yet.

Purchase: $130

Bose Solo 5 TV

Anyone who’s spent even the most minuscule amount of time within the audio space has heard of Bose. Not only has the brand become one of the leading proprietors for in-home audio, but it turns out that they make products catered toward (mild) outdoor viewing, as well. The outfit’s Solo 5 TV soundbar is a robust offering that brings its trademark sound quality to the forefront, while still being able to remain sleek, subtle, and unassuming. Thanks to its advanced audio tech, the Solo 5 can hone in on distinct details within your favorite media, including voices, music, SFX, and more. Due to its Bluetooth-capable architecture, you’ll be able to pair it with your smart projector or device with ease, allowing you to amplify every second of your favorite film, show, or album. If Bluetooth isn’t your thing, don’t worry; the Solo 5 also features an optical audio input, coaxial audio input, and 3.5mm auxiliary input, meaning that you can transition from digital to analog audio with ease.

Purchase: $180

Samsung 2.1 HW-R450

Samsung produces some of the genre’s finest televisions and entertainment peripherals, so it stands to reason that they’ve also got the audio game on lock. The brand’s 2.1 HW-R450 was built to pair with your well-rounded outdoor audio setup, offering buyers a great-sounding wireless subwoofer, optimized Smart Sound technology, and a streamlined silhouette that’s free of clutter. Thanks to its wireless connection, you won’t have to worry about moving all the cables and cords associated with your traditional entertainment center, getting you into the cinematic experience sooner rather than later. It even features a proprietary Game Mode, allowing you to revel in your victories through the brand’s tailor-made soundscape presets.

Purchase: $210

Accessories

Enhance Your Viewing Experience

Now that you’ve got the three main aspects of your outdoor theater nailed down, it’s time to move on to accessories. While these items aren’t absolutely mandatory for your viewing pleasure, they’ll make things a lot easier in the long run, optimizing set-up/tear-down time, expanding upon your streaming possibilities, and giving you more versatility during the initial planning phase. Below, we’ve introduced some notable power options, streaming devices, HDMI connectors, and theatrical classics that will take your cinematic experience to new heights.

APC Surge Protector

If you’re hooking up any kind of electric device outdoors, you’re going to need a capable surge protector to keep everything in-line. Luckily, APC’s unique 4,320-joule offering brings 12 different outlets to the table for all of your entertainment-focused devices, allowing you to keep all of your items in one easy-to-reach location. To help it reach the backyard, the surge protector also features a six-foot power cord, two different USB inputs/ports, and can be connected to an extension for expanded applications. If you’re still worried about the risk, you can rest assured — the APC outlet has a lifetime warranty and will cover up to $300,000 worth of equipment, thanks to its dependable protection policy.

Purchase: $35

ROKU Streaming Stick

Sometimes, streaming films from a computer or alternative media player can be a bit painful. To remedy those situations, pop in the ROKU Streaming Stick — a portable, USB-sized device that provides access to all your favorite channels via its intuitive app. Thanks to its sleek interface, easy-to-use remote, and dependable service, you’ll be able to navigate through over 500,000 movies, episodes, stations, and channels at up to 1080P resolution, giving you all the content you need to turn a lazy afternoon into a cinematic experience.

Purchase: $58

Pearstone Active HDMI Cable

If you’re thinking that you might forgo the ROKU for a more traditional method of streaming, you’re going to want to pick up an HDMI cable. Pearstone’s 50-foot offering is more than capable of transmitting your favorite films, shows, and music from one device to the next, thanks to its RedMere Chipset, gold-plated connector, and a blazing-fast 10.2Gbps transfer rate, making it perfect for 4K x 2K streaming, 3D, or Full HD video. It’s even triple shielded, providing both EMI and RFI protection to keep it ticking for years to come.

Purchase: $65

Great Northern Popcorn Black Bar Lincoln

No cinematic experience is truly complete without popcorn. Since your presence outside doesn’t invalidate that fact, we’ve decided to recommend Great Northern’s Popcorn Black Bar Lincoln machine — an old-school popper that’ll bring back the nostalgia of your favorite childhood theaters. This unique model makes up to three gallons of popcorn per batch and features an easily-cleanable stainless steel/powder-coated design that’s both heavy-duty, and somewhat weather resistant. So go ahead, invite your friends and family to your next outdoor cinema experience — thanks to the Great Northern Lincoln, you’ll have more than enough sustenance to go around.

Purchase: $225

The 20 Best DIY Home Improvement Projects

Looking for more interesting ways to occupy your time and amplify your living area? Head over to your guide on the best DIY home improvement projects to pick out your next big pursuit.

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