Cinema under the stars Cinema under the stars

Now is a perfect time to get cosy and catch a flick outdoors with friends and family.

Costco member Dave Durbin set up a digital movie projector in autumn 2021. He borrowed a neighbour’s screen, lit two propane heaters to ward off the night’s chill and welcomed his teenage daughter’s friends into their backyard. The girls, with sleeping bags and mugs of hot chocolate, settled in to watch the original Ghostbusters outside. “It was almost like a drive-in in our backyard,” Durbin says. “And the nice thing about when it’s freezing cold: no bugs.”

A lack of pesky mosquitoes isn’t the only upside to hosting a backyard movie this time of year. Outdoor get-togethers are a safer way to connect with others during cold and flu season. Besides, it gets dark early, so the party can wrap up before your booming movie soundtrack drives neighbours bonkers.

“It’s important to have events where people can just engage again, have a good time and create memories,” says Cristie Rosling, owner of Umbrella Events, an event planning company. “You just have to go heavy on the blankets.”

From movie projectors to external speakers, blankets, mood lighting and snacks (lots of snacks), here’s what will make your backyard movie bash a night to remember, no matter the budget.

Set the stage

Set the stage

When it comes to throwing a memorable, starry cinema night, ambience is everything. Hang twinkly lights to give the night some glamour while providing enough illumination to avoid tripping on the way to the snack table. Or light the way with LED flameless candles that can be controlled remotely.

You’ll want your guests to be warm and comfortable. Providing cosy plush blankets is a good start. Have stacks of hand warmers at the ready, extra beanies and mittens, and propane heaters for extra comfort. If dew or drizzling is expected, an event canopy to keep guests dry is a good idea.


Raising the bar

Raising the bar

When planning an outdoor movie night, go all out! Send printed invitations to guests and tuck pretend movie tickets inside. Your guests can show them when they arrive, and the invitation becomes a memento for the evening.

Choose a colour palette to match the movie. (Think black and white if you’re showing The Artist, or gold for 007 flicks.) And don’t forget a red carpet on the driveway or deck. Snap some pictures of your guests as they arrive.


On the technical side

On the technical side

If you think hosting movie nights will be an ongoing affair, today’s outdoor projectors offer picture quality only dreamed of a few years ago, with ultra-high resolution and lumens, or brightness. Many allow you to stream content wirelessly using your smartphone, laptop or tablet; some have Netflix and other apps preloaded to stream directly from the projector. If you have a smaller yard, look for equipment that uses a short-throw lens so you can place the projector closer to your screen while still creating a two-metre-plus picture.

Speaking of the screen, there are so many options to consider. To get started, it’s perfectly acceptable to go the DIY route and hang a crisp white sheet, but keep in mind that a high-quality screen offers consistently good, wrinkle-free viewing. New projector screens are lightweight and fold up so they can be easily stored and brought out as needed. Or embrace the wow factor and go big with a massive inflatable screen – an option if you want a big picture and don’t mind a little fan noise.

Listen up

Listen up

Although projectors have built-in speakers, the sound often needs a boost, especially if people are not close to the source. A pair of wireless outdoor speakers will solve the problem, or have moviegoers use bluetooth headphones or earbuds.

Ultimately, autumn movie nights are about watching the show and enjoying time outdoors before the cold sets in. “After a couple of years having to stay inside so much and being isolated, it’s nice to have the option to be outside and see friends,” Rosling says. “That’s the ingredient for the perfect movie night.”


Don't forget the snacks!


Complete your movie-watching experience with the right goodies.

  • Pop cinema-worthy popcorn at home using a commercial popcorn machine and fill up replica vintage popcorn boxes or bags.
  • Set up a sweets buffet and watch eyes widen. Load the table with creamy caramels, hard and chewy lollies, full- or snack-size chocolate bars and more.
  • Hot chocolate is a given as nights cool, but why not offer a variety of tea, coffee and soft drink too? For hot drinks, plug in a coffee machine. A steaming mug is just a button-press away.


Originally published in The Costco Connection, May/Jun 2023. Pick up the latest copy at your local warehouse or read it online.