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Everything you need for an outdoor movie night

Nothing says “summer” like outdoor entertaining. For a new twist on the mostly obsolete summer tradition of a drive-in movie, an outdoor movie party is a real crowd pleaser. You provide the food, drink and movie; your friends provide the blankets and enthusiasm.

Outdoor movie screen

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Lisa Wakefield, a blogger at in Tulsa, Oklahoma, says she always dreamed of showing a movie outside. The first hurdle: what to use as a screen. After several tries to find an all-white drop cloth (most are actually tan — too dark for a movie to show up on them), she settled for a PVC-coated drop cloth. This choice was ideal in that it was almost white, heavy enough not to blow around easily in the wind, and shiny on one side for projecting the movie onto it.

Next: rent a projector. Several online retailers offer this service, or you can check with retail camera or electronics stores in your area. Among the online resources are, and Expect to pay between $75 and $90 for one night’s rental — speakers and a rented screen can drive the price as high as $300. Pick a family-friendly movie (also available from these rental outfits), and you’re halfway there.

Lawn party

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Although you could set up your decorations in a theme according to your chosen movie, it’s not really necessary, says Wakefield. Hanging lanterns, popcorn and candy, fresh flowers and festive lighting are all you really need. As shown here, consider flavor varieties among the popcorn as well as the candy.

Besides the traditional buttered and salted popcorn, try these:

  • Curry popcorn: 1/2 cup popcorn kernels popped in vegetable oil tossed with 1 tablespoon curry powder (4 servings)
  • Bacon popcorn: 1/2 cup popcorn kernels popped in 1 tablespoon bacon fat; drizzle with 1/4 stick of melted butter and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup; toss. Sprinkle two strips of crispy bacon, crumbled, on top of popcorn. (4 servings)
Chaise lounge

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Although BYOB (bring your own blanket) is perfectly acceptable for your outdoor movie night, you can take your seating up a notch (or four!) with giant outdoor cushions. No need to include the chaise, shown above (, $899), to achieve comfy seating. Just order the double-wide cushions and lay them on the ground to spoil your lucky guests.

When the sun goes down, start the movie and watch the magic unfold. You will have hosted a night everyone will remember — and one that everyone will likely ask you to do again.

Source list, top photo: PVC coated 9 x 12-foot drop cloth (, $30); acrylic serving tray (US Acrylic, LLC, available at, $25); ikat diamonds gift wrap (, $5); pom-poms, package of 100 multicolor (, $2); sodas (, $2 each); shimmering plastic cups, set of 20 (, $4).
Source list, center photo: lanterns, 14 or 21 inches (, $5 to $8); Room Essentials globe lights, string of 25 (Target, $13); Montana Glass jar with silver lid, 1-1/2 gallon and 2-1/2 gallon (, $15 to $20); Tavolo stainless steel mixing bowls, set of 3 (, $35); pom-pom strings (homemade).
Source list, bottom photo: outdoor canvas chaise cushion (, $269 to $289).

More outdoor entertaining ideas

Mason jar drinks perfect for a BBQ
8 Stylish picnic essentials
Decorating Diva: Create the best outdoor space for entertaining

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