A few months ago, my family and I were invited to a birthday party for the young son of some friends of ours. The concept was an outdoor movie theatre, and it was so much fun we decided to do one ourselves.
At the risk of receiving a visit from the FBI in a few weeks (we didn’t charge admission, guys!), I’m going to outline how you can do this too. Summer is upon us, and it’s a perfect time for staying up a bit late and watching movies on warm nights with friends.
Step 1: Pick the movie
This may seem like a Captain Obvious move, but seriously, pick the movie ahead of time. I remember standing in Blockbuster (showing my age, here) for an hour trying to choose a movie to watch with friends. Nowdays, my kids are notorious for bickering for an hour before choosing a movie that they’ve all seen 100 times already. Just pick something, and stick with it. It’s your movie night, after all.
For our movie night, we chose Disney’s Frozen. We invited a bunch of our children’s friends (2-10 yr olds) and their families.
Step 2: Invite the right people
There are no “right” people. Just invite people. Anyone. People you think will like the movie. People you think won’t. People who get along. People who don’t. Well, maybe not people who don’t get along (all you-know-what may break loose and then you’ll have to call the cops on your own party). Maybe just invite people who may not know each other. There. Safer. Who knows? They may end up becoming besties (auto-correct wanted to spell this word as “beasties”, but that’s so not right).
For our movie night, we invited about 40-50 people. Our final group was made up of church people, neighbors, immediate family, cousins, and a few people we didn’t even really know. Cool, no problem.
Step 3: Feed them
I’ve eaten popcorn at the movies. Peanuts, icees, pizza, hot dogs, candy too. I’ve never had barbequed lamp chops with a balsamic vinegar glaze and dauphinoise potatoes. Grab and go, people, grab and go. These are the magic words. No need to showcase your culinary skills at this type of event. You’ll just drive yourself crazy cooking all day, and then be too exhausted to press “play” when the time comes. Just keep it simple, and serve stuff people can grab and eat out in front of the screen.
For our movie night, we did individually-foil-wrapped hot dogs and burgers, small bags of chips, and a few fruit and veggie platters. For snacks, we had store-sized candies and bagged popcorn. Drinks were all Capri sun pouches for the kids, and canned pop and juice for everyone else.
Step 4: Set up
It is fun to theme a little bit. Just don’t need to go overboard. A few movie posters hung up here and there, maybe a life-sized cutout of one of the characters, having people come dressed up in costume, rolling out a red carpet, incorporating movie colors into the décor, etc. Just a few touches will keep it fun.
For our movie night, we used frosted blue lanterns in the tent which covered our lawn, and different colored blue tablecloths on the food tables. That’s it. Simple, but just added a few touches. Oh, and my daughter and some of her friends dressed up like the princesses in the movie. Totally cute.
Side note: There was no real need to set up chairs like a movie theatre. We have a grass lawn, so we just encouraged people to bring their own blankets, lawn chairs, etc. It worked out great. Even more perfect, it was a bit windy and chilly that night (mid-February), so I had to raid the closet and bust out a bunch of blankets and sweaters and jackets for people who didn’t bring them. So not planned, but perfect for Frozen! Sometimes, things just work out right.
Step 5: Show the movie
You can use any sort of media to play the movie. Big screen TV, screen-and-projector combo, these both work great. Just make sure you plan properly so that everything is well secured and safe, and test it out ahead of time to make sure you have all the proper cords, the sound is loud enough, and the screen isn’t too dark or washed out. Also, have a plan “B”. We had both an Apple TV as well as a DVD player, in case one of them didn’t work right. Nothing ruins a good movie night like not being able to watch the movie.
So just make sure you’re totally set to go, and then press “play”! Have fun!