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How to Host Outdoor Movie Night (without Mosquitos)

There is something magical about sitting under the stars while watching some stars. Likewise, spending time outside during a summer New England night offers a true foundation for lifelong memories. While we typically think about making s’mores in the firepit, hosting an outdoor movie night is an ideal summer activity. Watching a movie outside in the backyard is a great way to enjoy time with friends and family.

Like other outdoor summer activities, like backyard camping, movie night provides a simple and generally inexpensive evening. Hosting movie night is great for the family, a few friends, or even the neighborhood. Outside of a projector and some snacks, the difficult part is setting the mood and picking the movie. To help, the following highlights the basics of hosting a movie night (including a way to keep the bugs and mosquitos away), family-friendly movie ideas for inspiration, and extra tips from movie enthusiasts!

Outdoor Movie Night Basics

From the screen to snacks, there are a few outdoor movie night basics to remember while preparing for your evening.

  • Proper Movie Screen Set-Up

Setting up a simple screen, such as a white blanket or bed sheet against the side of a house, is low-cost and an effective way to broadcast the movie. The main cost is finding a projector, which start around $50, and might be a nice investment if movie night becomes a standard activity during the summer.

In addition to the projector and movie screen, there are a few other steps to ensure a fantastic time. Importantly, ensure that everyone can hear the movie! A standard outdoor speaker should suffice, but test the sound during the day to avoid any tech issues.

  • Create the Theater Ambiance

Although movie night is in the backyard, make sure your guests feel like it’s the movies. The classic drive-in has gone by the wayside, but attempt to recreate the experience. For starters, be sure to provide sufficient seating. It is ok to provide a few blankets so people can sit together on the ground, but make sure that is an option and not a necessity.

Additionally, summer nights can become a bit brisk, especially after the sun sets for the evening. The day before the movie (assuming it is about the same temperature), take a few minutes to stand outside during the time of the show. This is a little touch so you can give everyone an expectation of the temperature. Find some extra beach blankets and set them near the seats so guests can easily find them if they get a chill during the movie.

Importantly, while you are outside, check for bugs and mosquitos. After all, annoying gnats and mosquitos aren’t part of the movies! If you notice some mosquitos flying around, then look to create a barrier around the seats, such as tiki torches to keep the bugs away. Or, lay out some mosquito repelling candles or set up a distraction, such as dry ice, which attracts mosquitos as it warms, to keep the bugs away from your moviegoers.

  • Provide the Right Food

Like all great events, people usually end up talking about the food. There are some staples to include, such as popcorn, candy, and a cooler full of soft drinks. It is movie night, so the essentials should keep everyone happy. However, to set the mood and embrace the movie theme, provide a few dishes that match the theme of the movie.

  • Pick the Right Movie

To host a great movie night, the setup is like the Coming Attractions. The movie itself is the Main Event of the evening. Remember that the classics never go out of style. From superheroes to action-adventure blockbusters and cartoon mayhem, there are some standard summer movie themes to consider when making the movie selection. If movie night is family-focused and there are some young children, then a well-made cartoon-type movie might fit the bill. Some of our favorites include:

  • The Princess Bride

A charming fairy tale adventure that combines romance, comedy, and swashbuckling action. It tells the story of a farmhand named Westley on a quest to rescue his true love, Princess Buttercup.

  • Mario Brothers

Based on Nintendo’s iconic video game, the child-friendly movie follows plumber brothers Mario and Luigi as they’re transported to a magical world to face the villainous Bowser. Filled with vibrant visuals, video game references, and a star-studded voice cast, the film offers a fun, nostalgic experience for fans and newcomers alike.

  • The Goonies

A group of misfit kids embark on an exciting treasure hunt, facing booby traps and a family of criminals. It’s an adventurous romp filled with humor and heart.

  • Zootopia

Set in a city where animals of all kinds coexist, this animated film follows a rookie bunny cop and a sly fox as they uncover a conspiracy. It’s a clever, funny movie with themes of tolerance and inclusion.

  • The Sandlot

A coming-of-age story set in the summer of 1962, following a group of young boys united by their love of baseball. It’s nostalgic, funny, and captures the essence of childhood summers.

  • Up

This Pixar animation begins with a poignant love story and evolves into an adventure as an elderly widower flies his house to South America. It’s a beautiful, emotional journey about dreams, friendship, and new beginnings.

  • Toy Story

Another Pixar classic, which tells a story about Woody, a pull-string cowboy doll, whose position as Andy’s favorite toy is threatened by the arrival of Buzz Lightyear, a space ranger action figure. As the two rivals embark on an unexpected adventure, they learn about friendship and what it truly means to be a toy. This heartwarming, funny film appeals to both children and adults with its clever humor and touching storyline.

  • Moana

This Disney animation follows a brave young woman on a daring mission to save her people, accompanied by the demigod Maui. It features stunning visuals, catchy songs, and themes of self-discovery and cultural pride.

  • Back to the Future

A sci-fi comedy about a teenager who accidentally travels back in time to 1955 in a DeLorean turned time machine. It’s a clever, exciting film full of humor and 80s nostalgia.

  • The Lego Movie

Set in a world of Lego, this animated film follows an ordinary minifigure who’s mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder. It’s inventive, visually impressive, and packed with humor for both kids and adults.

10 Terrific Outdoor Movie Night Hosting Tips from Movie, Entertaining & Family Enthusiasts

For more tips, tricks, and ideas about hosting an outdoor movie night with your family, we put out a call for help and am sharing the curated responses below. (Note: Eliminate ‘Em is not endorsing any of the companies or ideas discussed below, but we asked for suggestions to get some different perspectives.) Keep reading to find out what the contributors who responded to our query had to say about their favorite outdoor movie night ideas.

Shawn Stack is Founder and CEO of Hallmark Timmins, one of the go-to places for finding that special somethings.

In my experience, the key to hosting a successful family-friendly outdoor movie night is preparation. First, choose a movie that appeals to all ages – a classic animated film or a beloved family comedy often works well. Next, ensure you have the right equipment – a quality projector, speakers, and a large enough screen or blank wall. Set up early to test everything. Then, create a cozy viewing area with blankets, pillows, and outdoor furniture arranged facing the screen. Don’t forget the snacks! Set up a popcorn station and have other movie treats on hand.

Finally, consider small touches like glow sticks for kids or citronella candles to keep bugs away. With some thoughtful planning, an outdoor movie night can be a magical experience for the whole family.

Adam Wood, Co-Founder of RevenueGeeks, a resource website about everything related to e-business and e-commerce.

In today’s digital and hassle-filled life, we often overlook the simple pleasures of life. Having an outdoor movie party is a unique and accessible way to bring life back to your social circle and revive your friendships. It does not take much money or time to enjoy these little things. Movie nights are super fun, interesting, and good for mental health. A comfortable viewing space, good food, and great entertainment can make movie night unforgettable. Throwing an outdoor movie party with your family and friends will help you relax from your hectic daily schedule! 

The first thing to do is create a cozy atmosphere to have a fun and relaxing night. Decide where you will be watching movies and how you can make that place the best. There are a few other things you can add to your outdoor space to make the mood as cozy as possible. Add soft, plush throw pillows and chunky blankets to encourage optimal relaxation. Set up an air mattress and make a giant, comfy floor bed with lots of pillows for snuggling. Seasonal scented candles and glowbies are self-adhesive LED lights that can be stuck to anything, which is also a plus.

Andy Ellis from Posh UK, is a former professional gardener.

Even if movie night is only for my household, I always make handmade invitations for everyone (kids and adults alike) and set up my own concession stand. I’ve got hotdogs, popcorn (with every topping, cheese and caramel included), and every flavour soda you can imagine. We use monopoly money as currency for that authentic feel, and I also make sure to have homemade nachos, beer for the adults, and a good selection of chocolate and sweets on hand.

When buying their tickets, they get to choose their seat from my special seating plan, and then they make their way to their personal blanket nest with all their snacks. Chairs are optional; most movie night attendees tend to go for blankets and cushions for a comfy fort – especially when things get chilly. I use dim fairy lights to help light the path, and we always wait until dark to start the movie – it adds to the atmosphere. Honestly, it’s the perfect movie night.

Jen Seran, is a busy mom and Director of Business Operations at Stallion Express, drives strategic initiatives in eCommerce shipping across Canada.

Theme and Invitations: First, pick a theme that your guests will enjoy, like a favourite movie series or a certain decade. Make invites that go with the theme and send them out early to set the mood for the night.

Movie Selection: Pick a movie that both kids and adults will enjoy. Our family loves “The Incredibles,” “The Jungle Book,” and “The Sandlot.” Check the weather report and prepare a plan B in case the weather turns bad.

Food and Drinks: For a Spielberg movie binge, serve simple snacks and finger foods that people can grab and go, like popcorn, hot dogs, and movie-themed treats like “Reese’s Pieces.” Remember drinks that will cool you down, like iced tea and lemonade!

Ambiance: Set the scene with soft blankets, comfortable chairs, and twinkling lights. Make a “concession stand” with fun decorations and toys. Make sure you have lots of sunscreen and bug spray on hand!

Activities: To keep the kids busy while the adults talk, add activities before the movie, like a treasure hunt or games to play outside. You could also have a “movie trivia” game with prizes!

Remember that having fun and being open are the keys to a great outdoor movie night! If you plan and are creative, you can make memories that will last a lifetime.

Mac Steer, Owner and Director of Simify, a travel SIM company dedicated to helping travelers remain connected.

After hosting many outdoor movie nights over the years, my best tip is to keep things simple. Focus on the experience rather than trying to orchestrate an elaborate event. Choose a movie that appeals to a wide age range so everyone can enjoy it. Set up a projector and screen, or just project onto a light-colored wall. Provide snacks, bug spray, and cozy blankets or chairs for seating. Keep the evening short, around 90 minutes max. An outdoor movie night should be relaxing and bring people together, so avoid complicated schedules or activities.

For example, one of my most successful outdoor movie nights was showing the original Star Wars trilogy. I set up a projector and large sheet in the backyard, provided popcorn and snacks, and let people sit wherever they liked. Everyone from the little kids to the grandparents enjoyed seeing the movies under the night sky. The evening was simple but memorable, which is really what an outdoor movie night should be all about.

Jakub Kozlowski, Sales Manager at People for Pools, a family-owned, professional swimming pool construction and maintenance service company.

In my experience, hosting a successful family-friendly outdoor movie night comes down to three things: set-up, snacks, and selection.

First, you need to think about the set-up. Outdoors at night, you’ll want to create a cozy, theatre-like environment to get people in the mood. String up some lights, lay down blankets and pillows, and consider a snack table or even a popcorn station if space allows. The goal is to make it feel special.

Second, food and drinks are a must for a movie night. Provide a variety of kid-friendly snacks like popcorn, candy, juice boxes, and water. Adults will appreciate more indulgent treats too like wine, beer, chocolate, and cheese. Having options keeps everyone happy.

Finally, put thought into your movie selection. For families, you’ll want to pick something with broad appeal across ages that won’t be too long. Animated films are a safe bet. I’d suggest classics like Toy Story, Inside Out, or more recent hits like Coco.

With the right set-up, snacks, and a crowd-pleasing movie, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable outdoor movie night that both kids and adults will love. That’s my top tip based on years of successful family movie nights. Pick a good theme, make it comfy, provide lots of snacks, and queue up a fun film for all. You really can’t go wrong!

Dustin Remy, Founder of FantasyJocks, an e-commerce powerhouse crafting high-end trophies. FantasyJocks brings the thrill of victory to life for fantasy sports leagues.

In my experience, one of the best practices for hosting a family-friendly outdoor movie night is to make sure you have a high-quality projection and sound system. Nothing ruins the experience faster than a dim, fuzzy picture or audio that’s too soft to hear clearly. Investing in a good portable projector and speaker system pays off in the long run.

I also recommend providing fun snacks to keep the kids happy, like popcorn, candy, juice boxes, etc. Set up a self-serve snack stand so they can help themselves. And don’t forget blankets and bug spray! Comfort is key for an enjoyable movie under the stars.

For the movie selection, I suggest choosing a film that will appeal to all ages in the family. Animated films are usually a safe bet. Run the movie by the parents first to make sure there aren’t any concerns about content.

The most successful outdoor movie nights I’ve hosted always had great entertainment but also let the kids run around before the movie. Set up some lawn games like cornhole, ladder ball, or croquet. Let them expend that extra energy so they’ll sit still once the movie starts! With the right reparation, your outdoor movie night can be a beloved family tradition.

Adam Roach, is the CEO of Uppercut Tactical, an online shop featuring the best in defense, tactical, survival, hunting gear, and pocket knives.

In my experience organizing community events, one of the best practices I recommend for hosting a successful family-friendly outdoor movie night is keeping the entertainment kid-focused while also engaging for adults. Choose a movie that appeals to a wide age range, something animated that both children and parents will enjoy. For example, a classic like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial or a more recent option like The Incredibles are great choices. Have some fun activities planned before the movie starts to bring people together, such as a craft table to make star or alien masks, squishy alien toys for the kids to play with, or a costume contest with small prizes. 

Most importantly, make it an alcohol-free event so all ages feel welcome to attend and participate. Keeping the entertainment and activities kid-centric will ensure families with children feel like valued guests and want to come back again next year.

Audrey Pham, is a nurse, travel blogger, and Airbnb host who is always looking for her next destination at mappingthesoul.com.

To set the perfect ambiance, I have solar-powered lights that can breathe a pleasant rainbow or any color that guests desire. It creates a relaxing, soothing atmosphere perfect for enjoying a movie marathon. Being in Florida, I usually don’t need to heat the pool as the atmosphere is already a pleasant temperature at night. However, I will turn on the pool light and heat the pool if desired. The pool light adds a soft glow to the atmosphere as well, and having the environment maintain a pleasant temperature ensures that guests have a comfortable experience. It doesn’t have to be expensive to host a movie night. I own a projector that costs less than $100, yet has provided me and many other guests with really fun experiences with their friends and family! We play movies via the projector on the backyard wall, and all get to hang out by the pool. It is an extremely affordable, enjoyable activity that brings us all together.

Marissa Blaszko, founder of KScopeArt, is an events planner and manager who specializes in intimate but high-end family events.

If you’re organizing a family-friendly outdoor movie night, one of the challenges in 2024 isn’t so much planning for something for both “kids and adults”, which typically people think of as “children and their parents. Because families and communities are changing, I strongly urge our clients to make sure that other adults (childfree friends, 20-something -no-kids-yet relatives) don’t feel like they’re going to a child-centric event out of obligation.

One event theme that works great for movie nights (and that’s been hugely popular for the past couple of years) is nostalgia. I recommend a lot of my clients to look back at movies that are nostalgic to the childhoods 30 or 40 year old adults, since likely teens and 20 year olds will either have had it on their “classics to watch” list and small children can enjoy too.

The Goonies, Big, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Flubber, Iron Giant, James and the Giant Peach… there are a ton of classic options that can play on themes of nostalgia for everyone.

Finally, to really set the theme, throw on a 80s-90s play list while guests arrive. Music goes really far in setting a tone, and it takes no planning or extra budget to do!