How to Set Up an Outdoor Cinema

If you rewound my life back just a short 2 years ago, I would have been blissfully unaware that outdoor cinemas in people’s gardens were even a thing. In fact, I was probably even unaware that I had a garden, let alone think of it as a space I could use to entertain the family when it got dark with copious amounts of marshmallows, popcorn and large cosy knitted blankets.

We never used our garden to its full potential until we turned it around in Spring 2020

I don’t really like being outside after dark. Not because of some weird fear of werewolves or vampires lurking in the bushes, waiting to pounce and feast on my blood once the sun sets. It’s mainly because I hate the cold and I’d rather be tucked up inside with a cup of tea (oh, ok, a G&T) with a big woolly blanket thrown over my knees.

red sofa, fire on and green wall in the living room
I’d rather be tucked up indoors under a blanket and next to a fire than pretend to be having fun in the garden when it’s cold, dark and miserable!

But they started to pop up everywhere in the summer of 2019. No, not werewolves, garden cinemas! I started seeing people throwing up old sheets in between their garden trees and dragging out their old Epson projectors they had bought for home cinema use and I was like a kid in a sweet shop! Oooooooh. I showed a picture to Mr B. He was nonplussed as usual, but I was determined to be a fun Mum and make it happen!

outdoor cinema
I still haven’t watched La La Land. This amazing set up is by the wonderful Kirsty – @squid_and_goose

And make it happen we did! We bought a Nebula Mars II and a Duronic projector screen from Amazon and set about putting it up in the playroom to test it out. It became a huge hit in the play room and it never ventured outside. That was until 2020 happened.

2020 made us realise we were not utilising our garden space very well, so we switched it around. I loved this spot.

You know, the year we weren’t allowed out? When we were confined to our homes 24/7 and with two small children to home school, we knew we had to mix it up a bit and make the weekend feel a little more special than another trip around the field next to our house.

We already had the cinema set up inside, so we decided to turn our garden around (I wrote about how we transformed our garden for under £300 here) and make a real home from home cosy corner where we could eat, drink and watch our outdoor cinema that had never actually ventured outside. 

The other end of our graveled area had a very large garden room. We hung the screen from there.

How to Set Up an Outdoor Cinema

I have had so many people message me about how we set up our outdoor cinema, what we used and what I would recommend so I thought I’d share how we did it.

how to set up an outdoor cinema

Decide where it’s going

The first step is to decide where your outdoor cinema is going. Have you got a large wall or fence it could back onto? Maybe the side of your house or shed? If you’re lucky enough to have a pergola, maybe hang it from that?

This garage wall used to have a lot of ivy crawling up it, so we took it down as it is the perfect spot for a screen.
I then hung up some fairy lights from lights4fun to frame the area.

We have a large double garage and have put nails into the wall so that the screen can be placed there.

Creating a cosy area with the fairy lights and lanterns from lights4fun.co.uk
The fairy lights help zone the area and will give us some soft light when it gets dark. lights4fun.co.uk

Another consideration is the position of the sun. We mainly use our outdoor cinema from May – October so the sun doesn’t set until gone 8pm most nights. Try and put it somewhere so that the sun is either behind the screen or towards the back of it or you won’t see anything until gone 9pm!

This was around 9pm, it’s quite a bright projector so we could see the picture clearly, even though it wasn’t completely dark

Choose your screen

You don’t have to go all out and buy a screen. If you have a white wall in your garden, use that. You could even hang up a plain white sheet and use it as a projector screen. But we decided to purchase one as we knew we wanted to use it for our outdoor cinema and indoors.

We went for a Duronic projector screen which can either be hung from the ceiling or straight onto the wall. It easily pulls down and winds up when you’re finished.

The screen folds up inside the top and can be attached to the wall or ceiling.
Also very large, but square. I highly recommend getting one that is a lot wider.

I would definitely go for a wide screen projector though, ours isn’t so we either have to reduce the size of the picture or the picture gets cut off. Amazon have plenty, Von Haus do one that you can connect straight to a wall.

If you do not have anywhere to attach or hang a projector screen, you can also buy a projector screen with stand, but they will be more expensive.

Vamvo projector screen with stand, 120 inches – Amazon

Now the important part, what projector?

It’s a minefield out there at the moment. There are so many good quality projectors to buy, so it can be a bit overwhelming. I would really recommend spending some money on a decent quality projector though. If you are going to be watching it outside, you want the picture to be as good as it can get.

The Nebula Mars II which we propped up in the flower bed.

We bought the Nebula Mars II and have been thoroughly impressed with it so far. The picture quality is razor-sharp, the sound is not too tinny (one of my pet hates!) as it has immersive stereo sound and it can stretch to a 150-inch image.

The Nebula Mars II – Amazon

We have also had the Nebula Capsule which is the cheaper version of the Mars II and the size of a can of coke, so perfect if you want to take it camping with you! It can stretch to a 100 inch image, has an 8W speaker and has a 4 hours video playtime.

Nebula Capsule – Amazon
The Nebula Capsule which is also a brilliant projector and the size of a can of coke. The sound quality is not as good as the Mars II
My kids enjoying toasted marshmallows!

The best thing about these projectors is that they run on an Android system and you can download multiple apps to run all your favourite shows and films, such as Netflix, YouTube and Prime TV. You can also download the Nebula Connect App and control it from your phone.

There are plenty of other fabulous projectors out there, but these two are the only ones I’ve had experience in and I would highly recommend them!

Set up your own Outdoor Cinema cosy corner

Comfort is key when you are thinking about creating a seating area around the outdoor cinema. You want to be able to get cosy and warm whilst watching a film, so a large outdoor sofa or corner seating area is a good idea. Add plenty of cushions and throws so your family and friends can settle down for a few hours and enjoy the film without getting frostbite!

Create a cosy scene with lots of cushions and throws
Aldi egg chair
You can hide behind the cushions for the scary bits!

The finishing touches

You’ve got your screen, projector and seating area ready to go for your outdoor cinema evening, think about the final touches.

Soft lighting is a good idea so people can still see where they’ve placed their popcorn or how to get to the bathroom without having to carry a torch. Festoon lights or fairy lights (I love ours from lights4fun.co.uk) are perfect for this. You can also add some solar powered lanterns and candles to give your garden a really warm glow.

Festoon Lights are in huge demand at the moment – lights4fun.co.uk
Fairy lights – lights4fun.co.uk
Taza Moroccan Solar Lantern Duo – lights4fun.co.uk
Buddha from tesco!
Fairy lights from lights4fun.co.uk
A wonderful light reflection – lights4fun.co.uk
Round lantern from homebase.co.uk

Finally, think about investing in a fire pit! We absolutely love ours and it is perfect for the colder UK evenings we get in the summer. I love hearing the fire crackle whilst watching a film! And obviously it is great for toasting marshmallows.

Oxidised Kutu Firepit – NOTHS
Fire pit from vonhaus.com
My Son stole the best seat in the house!

So that’s it really, the hardest part is choosing your projector but don’t let the summer pass you by before you’ve made your choice! It’s still fun watching the projector indoors but there’s something special about watching a movie on an outdoor cinema!

Who you gonna call?
How young does Sigourney Weaver look?
Nicely lit up
A little visitor! Just beware of bugs and insects whilst outside! Haha.

Mel x

How to set up an outdoor cinema

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