Flicks al Fresco

There’s no better time than a cool summer evening to host a “Movies Under the Stars” night. It may sound elaborate, but throwing an outdoor movie party actually can be pretty simple.

Here are some tips to help you create a laid-back, drive-in theater vibe in your own yard.

The Space

Look around and find where you can make use of a backyard, patio, porch, deck, or driveway. The idea is to pick a spot with minimal light at night — streetlights can ruin everyone’s view of the screen. Line small lanterns along the path to the seating area, and surround the perimeter with citronella candles to repel pests.

The Setup

Locating a projector to screen the movie is easier than you think. Ask your local schools and libraries for one to borrow — they’re also widely available (and often inexpensive) to rent. Usually, you can run them right from your laptop or DVD player. For the coolest vibe, set up the projector to show your flick on a flat wall such as the side of a home, or create a freestanding screen with a sheet or sun shade strung from a clothesline or trees. But if that’s not practical for you, inquire about using a freestanding, portable screen from wherever you get the projector.

The Seats

Give your guests a relaxed and comfy seating area with blankets, cushions, and pillows up front, and folding chairs and outdoor furniture in back, stadium seating-style. Tip: Your outdoor furniture cushions can serve as additional seating on the ground. Scatter small tables or trays throughout the space to rest drinks and snacks on.

The Snacks

Popcorn is a no-brainer here. Create a concession stand near your seating area with folding tables covered in tablecloths. If you can, feature a retro popcorn popper and make that the center of attention! If not, you can also pop the popcorn ahead of time and set up brown bags or striped, theater-style bowls on the table for guests to grab at will. Add shakers with toppings such as Parmesan cheese, chili powder, and cocoa powder mixed with confectioner’s sugar. Also, be sure to pick up mini boxes of classic movie candy or create a “make your own mix” buffet of candy and other small treats so guests can build their own cup. A stash of retro bottled soft drinks, bottled water, and beer in large buckets filled with ice cover your beverage needs, and you’re good to go!

The Show

Consider your audience then choose two crowd-pleasing movies you know they’ll love and probably know by heart. The idea is something no one has to focus on so you don’t have to shush anyone! Go for big summer blockbusters, scary movies, beloved comedies, black-and-white classics, or kiddie favorites. Need ideas? You can’t go wrong with JawsPoltergeist, National Lampoon’s VacationETBlue HawaiiThe Sound of Music, or The Wizard of Oz.

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