We’re halfway through the year — what better time to transform your backyard into an outdoor home theater? All it takes is a few pieces of gear and you can be enjoying relaxing movie nights under the stars with friends and family.
Good news — you may already have some of the, and others can likely be from other spots around the house. The list below offers some on how to achieve the and for a backyard movie night. Just don’t forget the .
For the biggest movies you’re going to need a projector. Any projector will work, but the brighter it is, the easier it will be to see the picture. That’s especially important outdoors, when even on a dark night some ambient light — from your neighbors, your deck lights or tiki torches — can affect the picture. Brightness also determines how large an image a projector can create. The Epson Home Cinema 2250 is one of the brightest projectors we’ve ever reviewed, and it’s able to create a fantastic image overall.
There are also plenty of other projectors to choose from. Here’s a list of some alternatives for backyard movie night.
- Epson’s ($1,000) is smaller than the 2250, and has a better speaker built-in, although it’s not as bright.
- The ($550) is even dimmer, but it has an internal battery so you don’t need to be near an outlet.
- The ($270) is cute, inexpensive and portable, but dim and lower resolution (480p) than tke Anker.
- The ($1,300) is bright and not too expensive, making it our top choice in 4K outdoor projectors for the money.
See our list of, and for other options.
Assuming you don’t have analready, you could bring your outside. Keep in mind, however, that TVs are very delicate. One wrong twist and you can crack the screen. Even small TVs should be carried by two people. Treat it like you’re carrying a thin, expensive sheet of glass. Technically, that’s exactly what it is.
Projector speakers are not loud. Worse, they’re often competing with the projector’s own fan noise. So if you’re sitting close enough to hear the speakers, you’re trying to hear them through the whoosh of the fans.
A Bluetooth speaker can connect to some projectors or streaming sticks. The better and larger ones should be plenty audible. More importantly, you can sit farther from the projector and place the speaker closer to where you’re sitting.
We like the UE Hyperboom. It’s big, heavy and not cheap, but if your screen is 10 feet wide you should have some big sound to go with it. It’s loud, but just as important, it has an analog 3.5mm input, so you don’t have to worry about lip-sync issues by going via Bluetooth. That input also means it will work with pretty much any projector that has an audio output.
If you’re using a traditional projector, you’re going to have to run electrical power. Since you’re running power anyway, why not just connect an actual speaker? A good soundbar will be significantly louder than a Bluetooth speaker, and probably sound a lot better too.
We like this inexpensive Vizio, which we’ve said “If you want to buy a soundbar on a budget, it’s tough to do better than this” and that its sound is “unhurried and natural.”
Don’t forget that you’ll need a cable to connect it to the projector. Nearly all projectors have an analog audio output, which can connect to most soundbars including Vizio. Some have HDMI, so you’ll need anfrom the soundbar to the projector.
We don’t have a specific suggestion here, but we do have a few tips while you’re looking.
Rigid-frame screens are more expensive and a little harder to assemble, but are more resilient against wind and typically have smoother screens for a better overall image.
Inflatable screens need to be secured to the ground, and any wind is going to set them rocking. However, they tend to be easier to set up and take down. Keep in mind that their fans run constantly, so in a smaller or enclosed yard, this can be annoying.
There are also infinite DIY options; basically anything fairly reflective and lacking color will work. It’s worth noting that you’ll be able to see any texture in the screen’s surface, so a garage door ior the side of your house won’t be ideal because you’ll see any design, seams or imperfections.
The easiest way to get something to watch on your outdoor projector is via a streaming stick. Most modern projectors have a USB connection so you can connect a streaming stick without running an additional power cord.
This assumes your home’s Wi-Fi is strong enough to reach into your yard. If it’s not, we’ve got some ways to fix that, below.
Depending where and how strong your Wi-Fi router is, you may not have enough signal to stream anything in your yard. You might be able to fix that: Check out the Wi-Fi tips in our article on how to improve internet speeds for Netflix, Hulu and more.
If none of those options works, consider a Wi-Fi extender. These connect to your main Wi-Fi, then broadcast essentially “more” Wi-Fi from a different point in your house. We like the TP-Link RE220 (aka the AC750). As Ry Crist said in his review, “Nothing else I tested was able to match [the RE220’s] level of performance, which makes the RE220 a steal at $30.”
Or just tether your phone
Another option that might work is to turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot. This uses a cellular signal for internet, and then broadcasts a little Wi-Fi bubble near the phone. Streaming a movie chews through data, though, so make sure you’ve got plenty or are on an unlimited plan.
Most modern phones have a feature that lets you create a hotspot. Once it’s active, you just connect the streaming stick or projector to it just like it’s “normal” Wi-Fi., but will work for connecting any device.
Keep in mind, too, that running a hotspot typically drains your battery fairly quickly, so you should also consider a, or plug it in via an extension cord.
If your Wi-Fi isn’t strong enough to reach your makeshift theater, and you don’t want to burn through all your mobile data, Blu-ray players are very inexpensive and should have your viewing needs covered. You still have some discs, right?
For the most part we recommend getting a 4K Blu-ray player at this point. They’re only a little more expensive, will play standard DVDs and Blu-rays too, and 4K discs are the best way to take advantage of a 4K-compatible TV or projector (and I’m assuming you’ll be using this for indoor movie nights as well). Theshown here is our pick for .
Alternatively, you could get aor an for some outdoor gaming on a huge screen. Both also play Ultra HD 4K Blu-rays.
Having one of these is important for any high-performance outdoor theater. The outdoor ones are far more rugged, so they should survive being stepped on no problem. I like the ones with three outlets at the end. It’s better to have too many than too few. Connecting this to a grounded or GFCI outlet is probably wise as well.
Or you could connect a power strip with a fuse in it, but these aren’t designed for use outside, so proceed at your own risk
Lastly, the thing that has kept me sane through quarantine. Don’t underestimate the relaxing powers of a good hammock. You could get one from Hammock Hut, Hammocks-R-Us, Put-Your-Butt-There, really any will do. I’ve had one of these airy models for years and it has held up surprisingly well.
The only problem with watching a movie in one is that you’ll be asleep halfway through the second act. Nothing wrong with that.
As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, airplane graveyards and more.