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How to Host an Outdoor Movie Party

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Drive-in movie theaters are about as common as rotary phones, but my family is fortunate to have one within easy driving distance of our home, and we frequent it often during the summer months.

There’s something fantastically retro about watching a movie outside in the dark, snacks in hand. Almost every drive-in theater has a classic concession stand where you can purchase popcorn, candy, and more modern treats like poutine, or you can bring in your own, like we often do, and eat picnic-style while watching your film.

This summer we want to bring our love for the outdoor movie to our own backyard by throwing a movie-viewing party for our kids and their friends. Here’s how to host your own outdoor movie party, if you’re so inclined:

1. The Set Up

There are four main items required to screen a movie outdoors:

  • Screen or large white wall (you can also use a large white sheet)
  • DVD player or laptop
  • Projector
  • Speakers

Very few people have projectors at home, but many have access to one via work. Alternatively, you can rent them from your local audio/video store for a reasonable price. Once you have the items you need, you can set them up in low-light area and scatter blankets, pillows, and lawn chairs on the ground in front of the screen/wall for easy, comfortable viewing.

2. The Movies

Movie parties tend to be long, as you need to build in time for socializing and chitchat, visits to the ‘snack bar’ and finding a comfortable seat. If there are a lot of young children in attendance, consider showing a couple of episodes of a TV show, which will take less time than a full movie. Just be sure to choose something with mass appeal, so everyone will enjoy it.

For full-length films, there are plenty of options. Some great choices for family-friendly, summertime picks with mass appeal include:

  • Home Alone
  • The Great Outdoors
  • School of Rock
  • Parenthood
  • Star Wars
  • ET
  • Finding Dory
  • Nacho Libre
  • Toy Story
  • Shrek
  • A Bug’s Life
  • Cars
  • Bad News Bears (Original one from 1976)
  • Moana
  • Invincible
  • Transformers
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Back to the Future
  • The Lion King
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
  • The Sandlot
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005 version)
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971 version)
  • Freaky Friday
  • BIG
  • The Goonies
  • Sound of Music
  • Despicable Me
  • The Princess Bride
  • The Sandlot

3. The Invites

Be specific about the details of your movie party and indicate whether guests are required to bring blankets, lawn chairs, flashlights, or snacks to your event.

4. The Concession Snacks

I like the idea of serving popcorn, because it’s a classic concession snack, but it’s also a nice treat to have traditional movie candies on hand (Junior Mints, Rasinettes, Twizzlers). If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can serve warm hot dogs wrapped in foil (place wieners in buns, wrap in foil, and steam in a slow cooker; you can keep them in there on low until ready to serve. For drinks, lemonade, iced tea, soda, and water are all popular options, and the adults would likely enjoy beer or sangria.

Happy movie viewing!

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