How to Set Up a Snug and Comfortable Outdoor Cinema in Your Garden

If you rewound my life back just a short 2 years ago, I would have been blissfully unaware that an outdoor cinema in your garden was a thing! In fact, I was probably even unaware that I had a garden as I spent little time in it.

It mainly consisted of bushes, trees, and a lot of mess and wasn’t really a space I could use to entertain and sit with the family. It definitely wasn’t a place to sit when it got dark with copious amounts of marshmallows, popcorn, large cozy knitted blankets, and cozy sheepskin slippers.

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. However, I’ve always liked the idea of an outdoor cinema at home. 

In the garden with a eucalyptus tree, tiled pallet table, gravel and sofa.
We never used our garden to its full potential until we turned it around in the Spring of 2020

In the summer of 2020, outdoor cinemas started to pop up everywhere.

As we were confined to our homes, people came up with weird and wonderful ways to entertain themselves, and having an outdoor cinema in your garden was high up on the list.

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!

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 playing La La Land with lanterns hanging from the tree
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 playroom and it never ventured outside.

That was until 2020 happened. As we were not able to go to the cinema, we decided to create an outdoor cinema at home. 

mediterranean inspired garden with gravel, fire pit, eucalyptus trees and festoon lights
2020 made us realize we were not utilizing our garden space very well, so we switched it around. I loved this spot.

We knew we had to mix it up a bit and make the weekend feel a little more special. We already had the cinema set up inside, so we decided to turn our garden around and make a real home-from-home cozy corner.

I wanted it to be a place where we could eat, drink, and set up our outdoor cinema equipment so we could all enjoy a family movie night. 

Watching the Wizard of Oz on our outdoor cinema projector screen in the garden with festoon lights and a fire pit
The other end of our graveled area had a very large garden room. We placed our outdoor cinema equipment around the garden room.

How Do You Set Up a Movie Night in the Garden?

I have had so many people message me about how to set up an outdoor cinema in your garden and what outdoor cinema equipment we used, so I thought I’d write a blog post about it. 

how to set up an outdoor cinema Pinterest pin

Decide Where Your Outdoor Cinema Equipment is Going

The first step is to decide where your outdoor cinema equipment 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?

garage wall with lights hanging from it
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.
garage wall where we are putting our projector 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.

our projector screen, tiled pallet table and outdoor sofa
Creating a cosy area with fairy lights and lanterns from lights4fun.co.uk
projector screen and fairy lights in the garden
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 8 pm 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 9 pm!

Ghostbusters playing on the outdoor projector screen
Can you use a projector in the garden? This was around 9 pm, 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.

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.

duronic projector screen
The screen folds up inside the top and can be attached to the wall or ceiling.
projector screen dimensions
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 has plenty, Von Haus does one that you can connect straight to a wall.

projector screen

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

projector screen on stands
Vamvo projector screen with stand, 120 inches – Amazon

Now the Important Part, What Projector?

I also get asked can you use a projector in the garden? You can pretty much use any projector on the market in the garden, just remember to take it indoors again when you’re finished. 

Another consideration when looking for outdoor cinema equipment is the audio quality. Your projector will have to work that little bit harder outside, so spending a little bit more money will ensure you get a better sound quality. 

It is a minefield when it comes to projectors. There are so many good quality products to buy, 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.

Ghostbusters playing on the outdoor projector screen
The Nebula Mars II which we propped up in the flower bed.
fire pit with fire

We bought the Nebula Mars II and have been thoroughly impressed with it so far.

The picture quality is razor-sharp and the sound is not too tinny (one of my pet hates!) It has immersive stereo sound and it can stretch to a 150-inch image.

Nebula Mars II projector
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 4 hours of video playtime.

nebula capsule
Nebula Capsule – Amazon
wizard of Oz on a projector screen in the garden
The Nebula Capsule is also a brilliant projector and the size of a can of coke. The sound quality is not as good as the Mars II
kis in the garden eating marshmallows
My kids enjoying toasted marshmallows!

The best thing about these projectors is that they run on an Android system. You can download multiple apps to run all your favorite 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 Outdoor Cinema Cozy Corner

Comfort is key when you are thinking about creating an outdoor cinema in your garden. You want to be able to get cozy 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!

Ghostbusters playing on the outdoor projector screen
Create a cozy scene with lots of cushions and throws
fire pit in the garden
Aldi egg chair
Ghostbusters playing on the outdoor projector screen
You can hide behind the cushions for the scary bits!
Ghostbusters playing on the outdoor projector screen

The Finishing Touches

You’ve got your outdoor cinema equipment set up and seating area ready to go for your family movie night, now you need to 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

Festoon Lights are in huge demand at the moment – lights4fun.co.uk

fairy lights hanging from a pergola over a courtyard
Fairy lights – lights4fun.co.uk
solar lanterns
Taza Moroccan Solar Lantern Duo – lights4fun.co.uk
small buddha
Buddha from tesco!
fairy lights in bushes
Fairy lights from lights4fun.co.uk
solar lantern
A wonderful light reflection – lights4fun.co.uk
solar lantern
Round lantern from homebase.co.uk
solar lantern

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.

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

The hardest part about creating an outdoor cinema at home is choosing the best outdoor cinema equipment for your space. However, 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 at an outdoor cinema!

Ghostbusters playing on the outdoor projector screen
Who you gonna call?
Ghostbusters playing on the outdoor projector screen
How young does Sigourney Weaver look?

The beauty of buying outdoor cinema equipment is that you can use it indoors and outside in your garden. It’s great fun all year round and ours gets a lot of use!

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How to set up an outdoor cinema

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