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outdoor movie screen

Tips for hosting an outdoor movie night at the cottage

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As we reach the tail end of the summer, you may find yourself looking back on the past few months to see which of your summer to-dos actually got done. Chances are you fit in some of the basics: jumping in a lake, cooking on a fire or barbecue, drinking some fruity cocktails. But what about more ambitious projects? Are you still wishing you could have one last hurrah before sending out the summer?

If so, we have the project for you! Having an outdoor movie night is a great way to get family and friends together on a late summer evening. An outdoor movie is a social but low-pressure kind of event, and if you’re feeling ambitious, you can combine it with a barbecue, potluck, or cocktail hour. Read on, and we’ll tell you how to end your summer with a bang.

1. Pick a flick (with your audience in mind)

Some careful thought needs to be put into choosing a film if you’re going have a large or diverse group of people over. Will there be kids present? Maybe it’s not the best time to pull out The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Are your guests expecting a lighthearted evening? Put the Godard away. If you’re not sure what people are expecting, it’s probably good to choose a crowd-pleaser, like a Pixar film or a classic—think Back to the Future or The Princess Bride. On the other hand, if you want to have a theme night, you can choose a genre film and ask people to dress accordingly. Whatever you do, just don’t catch your guests off-guard.

2. Get your screen ready

One of the most essential ingredients of a successful movie night is the screen. A giant, multiplex-style viewing surface will bring all the summer revellers to you yard. And yes, you can buy a projector screen for big bucks, or go budget with a basic white sheet, but if you want maximum picture quality (and to show off your DIY skills), we recommend making your own sturdy screen with abs pipe. It’ll withstand wind and weather, living on to see many movie nights down the road.

3. Find a projector

There’s no getting around this step. You want a picture? You need a way to project it, which tends to require store-bought projector (though you can check around online for second-hand projectors as well). It’s an investment that will pay off every time you want to watch a movie without squinting at a tiny screen. But if you absolutely can’t find a fancy projector, you can always try building a shoebox + iPhone version. At the very least, it makes an amazing science project.

4. Secure your chairs

Any good theatre requires comfortable seating. Lots of outdoor movie screening events make people sit on the grass, but after about 20 minutes, you tend to notice people rubbing their wrists in pain. Propping yourself up on your arms for the duration of a movie isn’t a best-case scenario. If you really want to seat your guests in style, we recommend setting them up in these comfy outdoor cinema chairs. They sit on the ground so you can still stretch your legs, and they’ve got adjustable tilted backs so you don’t have to hold your neck at an weird angle all night. Win/win.

5. Set up a refreshment table

The whole point of outdoor movie night is that it’s outdoors. It kind of ruins the atmosphere if you have to run inside every few minutes for a new beer—but you don’t want your drinks to get warm from sitting outside all night either. The solution? This awesome table troff cooler. It will keep your drinks cool all night and has lots of room for chips and other finger food too. This is another great DIY project that will see you through all kinds of future events. Set this up at your next movie night, and you’ll be fielding compliments all night.

6. Be considerate of your neighbours

You don’t want to be “that cottage,” ruining the peace and quiet for everyone else. So make sure you let your neighbours know if you’re planning to have an event that will run late into the evening. Or better yet, invite them. You’ll definitely earn good-neighbour karma, and you won’t have to worry about noise complaints or cranky cottagers glaring daggers at you next time you go to beach.

7. One word: popcorn

For bonus points, pop it over the fire in aluminum foil, then douse it in butter, caramel, or your preferred topping. Distribute it in classic paper bags for the old-time drive-in vibe, or just pass around a big bowl for a friendly summer-camp feel. Enjoy the show!