Weekend Reivew: How to Host an Outdoor Movie Night

Monday, September 10, 2012

Well, you all know me, and so you all know I love old movies. I don't get to the movie theatre often and couldn't tell you half of the actors names in any given film I did watch there, let alone what the latest gossip on them was....but a film half a century or older? Um, yeah. I'd be able to tell you quite a bit.

So, when The Boy and I were first starting to go out, he did the sweetest thing- he threw a surprise party to watch my favorite film, Casablanca, out of doors. Things didn't go quite to plan weather-wise, and ended up inside. Still, throughout the fall we set up several movies in the park, and several people might show up. Over time we started thinking things could be prettier, tastier and over all DIY-er (do-it-yourself-er? More do it yourself-ish? I don't know. You decide). Our movie nights became a regular event.

Movie Invite Collage

Knowing all this- can you guess what happened this weekend? We held an Outdoor Movie Party. And you know what? It was pretty cool. This might seem like more of a summer thing, but fall is the perfect time to have an Outdoor Movie Party. It gets dark at a more reasonable time, people are less likely to be away travelling, and any cooler weather just means more fun snuggling under blankets. It's not hard to hold such a party either!

The previous year we had had a problem where people got excited by the idea of a movie in the park, but failed to show up for one. So, to make things a bit more special, The Boy suggested personalized invites. I came up with the idea of a film reel and he did the rest.  Whether it resulted in more attendees or not, is anybody's guess but, he did a pretty bang up job.

Movie DetailsCollage
Instead of in a park, we chose to have the party at his home. This allowed us to have drinks in glass contianers and alcohol (both of which local ordinances prohibit in public parks). His fence also provided a larger structure to secure a screen to in case of wind, and we could be ensured it was a private screening, in accordance with copyright.

The Boy has a job that uses a film screen and projector regularly, so we borrowed some things. We used a  DLP Projector and  100 inch Portable Screen with a computer or Playstation 2 to play DVDs. However, it is not hard to make your own screen, an option we've considered. You can look here for more information on that!

The food, drinks and decorations were my main contributions. The banners seen above and below were made using fabric paint, and were inspired by these posts by the  blog The House that Lars Built. The one above was to help guests identify the right house! Our movie started at eight, well past the time most people have dinner around here, so we stuck with pretty basic movie food fare. "Old fashioned" candy came from the Montana Candy Emporium in Red Lodge and included lemon heads, taffy, squirrel nut zippers, candy coins and more. For drinks we may have gotten a bit too much, but figured it was better safe than sorry. A variety of local(ish) microbrews ranged from dark to light for those over twenty-one, but we also had Jones Soda and Root Beer (chosen because they are non-caffeinated for any allergies or religious prohibitions) as well as water. The decorations on the table were also things we had around, mainly things people had given me over the years.
  Movie FoodCollage

The popcorn maker seen above had been generously donated, and, since it was wheeled, sat up on the deck.  Don't think you need anything so fancy though! It is just as fun to make stove-top popcorn before the show starts. We also added another vignette with a movie poster (Casablanca-the first movie we showed as at a party) on top of wooden filing cabinets, and some of my movie books. You can see people could read up on the night's movie in one book (the movie was The Ghost and Mrs. Muir).

Off to the side of the table were extra chairs, blankets and pillows. It's always good to have at least a few of all these things. People forget their own, or underestimate what the weather will be, and, since some knees are not as young as others, both blankets and chairs are great to have on hand.
MovieParty Collage

We had a friend pick the movie- both because it is fun to have a movie you yourself haven't seen, and because you'll know the movie will be one the guests will like. Though this all might look like a lot, it took about a half hour to set up and to take down- very easy. We were able to enjoy all the guests and the film (I'd now highly recommend The Ghost and Mrs. Muir!)


  1. This is such a neat idea! A great way to spend a cheap evening with friends. Shame the weather where I live has just turned..



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  2. oh my josh! what a wonderful party, and love all the effort you put into it! You created such a unique experience!

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  3. This is such a fun idea! I definitely want to steal this, this is my kind of party. And I need to check that movie out, I've never seen it. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. What a cool idea! Love it and the popcorn maker is just fantastic! I once tried to go to an open-air movie night in a park (in London) and on the evening it wasn't just cold it was raining cats and dogs - so I stayed at home :-)

    Thanks so much for your lovely comment and compliment on my blog, I really appreciate it.

    Have a lovely evening, bisous xo

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  5. Okay, this seriously looks like the cutest idea EVER! They do movies at an outdoor theatre here in town which I have been wanting to go to all summer (especially on Jurassic Park night which I was unfortunately out of town for, haha). But a DIY version is even better, especially with all the awesome touches! Eben your beer selection looks terrific!
    xo Hannah

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  6. My friends just did this and it was so fun!

    xo Jennifer


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  7. What a fun idea! I want to come next time! :)


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  8. This is amazing! I would love to do this!

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  9. Perfect!! I just saw a movie night party alot like this in a magazine called Southern Lady...I was swooning over it, and now I'm swooning over yours! This is on my list of things to do!! :)

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  10. Im gonna coy this idea! So so cool
    Thanks for stopping by my blog btw!
    Ty Azarov

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  11. yay! Wish I could have been there. Glad to live vicariously through these sweet photos.

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