DIY Outdoor Movie Screens
Turn your backyard into the neighborhood drive-in this weekend with inspiration from 5 easy-to-make outdoor projector screens. Plus, learn about the best materials to use and additional equipment needed to create the ultimate alfresco movie-viewing experience.
Like fireflies and fireworks, movies under the stars make for magically memorable summer nights. But if your town or city doesn’t already host nighttime screenings, you can bring the drive-in to your own backyard—minus the Hollywood budget. To inspire your DIY outdoor movie screen, keep reading to see five of our favorite designs, any of which you can build in one weekend using the material suggestions that follow. Get the popcorn ready, lay a blanket on the grass, and enjoy the double feature!
5 Fun DIY Outdoor Projector Screen Ideas to Try
With a few materials you likely already have on hand and a little ingenuity, you can whip up an easy-to-assemble (and disassemble) outdoor projector screen for your backyard. Here are a few of our favorite designs.
1. Sleep Under the Stars
“And the Oscar goes to” white bed sheets for being the least demanding of all DIY outdoor movie screen materials. If you’ve got spare linens, simply clip a queen-sized, ironed-flat sheet to tall hedges or the side of your house. That’s it! Now you’ve got an instant outdoor movie screen for projecting your favorite flicks.
2. Post Your Screening Here
For a larger, sturdier movie screen, build a pair of wooden posts with help from the step-by-step directions available at Instructables. To stabilize the posts, secure each one with ropes and stakes. Finally, stretch a white tarp (or a blackout cloth) between the two, before locking the material in position with either staples or nails. Or, as shown in the photo, mount a retractable outdoor projector screen for a true drive-in movie feel.
3. Learn the Ropes
In a woodsy backyard, use the trees to create a wonderfully whimsical DIY outdoor movie screen. First, suspend a rope from one tree to its most conveniently positioned neighbor. Next, hang the “screen” from the rope. The 2 Seasons created a similar setup, then took it step further by framing the projection area between wine-color drapes.
Don’t have a lot of trees? Tie the rope between posts of a swing set or similar sturdy nearby structure, as shown in the photo. Works just the same!
4. Pin Up
Structural elements of your home may provide all the support needed for a DIY outdoor movie screen. Here’s a look at what Sam (from My Barefoot Farm) managed to build in her backyard. She attached her screen (a 10 foot by 20 foot tarp with steel pipe framing) to the vertical supports beneath the second-story deck.
Another option is to use ½ inch PVC pipe instead of steel for a lighter outdoor projector screen assembly.
5. Paint a Big Picture Show
Avid movie-goers, take note: A DIY outdoor movie screen like this one would last long beyond this summer. Just paint one side of a plywood panel and support it from behind with a fence or the side of your house. At the end of the season, disassemble it and store the parts in your basement, garage, or shed.
The Best Materials For DIY Outdoor Projector Screens
Ready to start your outdoor theater project? The following are the best projector screen materials for watching movies.
While any exterior-rated white paint will work for painting a projector screen on wood or other material, you could get really fancy and opt for a specially formulated theater white paint. Whichever you choose, be sure to prep the surface by removing excessive texture and rolling on a primer first.
Backyard movie nights have grown in popularity in recent years and, as a result, outdoor projector screen fabric has become readily available on Amazon. Be sure to take accurate measurements for how much fabric you need before ordering, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how to mount it.
If you don’t have the time or desire to DIY an outdoor projector screen, check out this readymade inflatable model. It measures 9 feet tall by about 6 ½ feet wide and features a 16-foot screen. Simply air it up, set up your projector, and enjoy a true drive-in movie vibe right in your backyard!
If you’ve got a tarp stashed somewhere in your garage or attic, you can make an outdoor projector screen. Traditional, weather-resistant tarps are especially useful because they come equipped with grommets—perfect for threading onto a rope for hanging your projector screen in your outdoor space.
Though specialty materials are readily available, they aren’t necessary to create an amazing outdoor projector screen. You could just reach into your linen closet and grab a bedsheet. Flat vs. fitted is best, of course, and steaming or ironing out any wrinkles will help to create a smooth surface for viewing movies.
Additional Equipment for Your Outdoor Theater
Once you’ve got your screen setup planned, consider the following additional ideas for improving your outdoor movie-watching experience.
Media Streaming Devices
Many projectors available today come with streaming capabilities, so you can use a smartphone app or even a streaming device such as a Roku to play your favorite movies and shows.
Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Sound is oh-so important when it comes to movie viewing, so don’t forget to consider adding a bluetooth speaker to your outdoor theater setup.
FAQ About DIY Outdoor Movie Screens
Ready to embark on your alfresco entertainment project? Read these important questions and answers first.
What can I use for an outdoor projector screen?
Any large, flat surface will work for a projector screen—the side of your house, the back of a shed, a large sheet draped over a clothesline. The possibilities are vast!
What is the best material to use to make a projector screen?
The best materials for movie-viewing are outdoor fabric, white paint, a tarp, a bed sheet, or a readymade inflatable screen.
Can you use a sheet for an outdoor projector?
Yes, a flat sheet works well as a movie screen.
Creating an outdoor projector screen is an easy DIY project for any summer weekend. If you build it with exterior-rated materials and factor in a design that’s easy to assemble and disassemble, it’ll last for years to come!