Updated August 5, 2020
Want to experience Disney movies at home in a really cool way?
It’s easier than you think.
For years, we have set up an outdoor theater in the backyard at minimal cost and effort. Once you buy everything required, you’re set for a long time.
Let’s take a look at everything you need.
In this article
The following items are essential to “build” your theater. You likely have most of these things already.
- extension cord
- power strip
- external speakers (optional)
- DVD or streaming service
- queen size sheet
- kitchen chair or small end table to hold the projector and laptop
Our Set Up
Here’s what our outdoor theater looks like:
A broader view:
I photographed everything during the daytime, too, so you can get a better look at all the components.
This is a queen size sheet from Walmart. We cut holes in the fabric and looped rope through each to hang the sheet. You could make this much fancier than we did if you wish. We’re simple folk.
There are four ties at the top of the sheet and two at the bottom – one at each corner. The bottom ties are looped around rocks to ensure the sheet stays fairly taut. (I never use that word! So exciting.)
Your sheet doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth, but you don’t want it flowing with the wind, either.
Here’s a close up of the ties up top.
We use an old school desk to hold the projector, laptop, speakers, etc. Set it up as far back as needed to allow the projection to fill as much of the “screen” as possible. You can use a kitchen chair, end table, or other small piece of furniture you already have to hold the electronics.
Get yourself a husband who will do all of this while you sip wine in the nearby lounge chair. Just kidding!
I helped. Kind of.
We run an extension cord from the house to the school desk so that the laptop and projector can plug in.
External Speakers aren’t absolutely necessary, but we use them. My laptop’s volume isn’t loud enough for everyone to hear – especially if we have neighbors over and kids are running around like the lunatics they are. If possible, use them, but they shouldn’t be a necessity if you’re just getting started and want to keep costs down initially.
If you have a solid wall on the side of your house, you can skip the sheet all together and play your movies directly on the house. As long as the texture doesn’t interfere with the projection, you’re good.
Movies can be played indoors, too. Doing so inside would eliminate several parts of the set up.
Where to Find Movies
We have played movies from a variety of options over the years.
Your laptop should accept DVDs. Keep Redbox in mind for low cost rentals.
Disney+ is ideal for all things Disney, of course.
Consider streaming platforms, too, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Vudu, etc. Sigh…..whatever happened to Blockbuster Video? I miss it and the simplicity of days long ago. Did you hear that? My daughter just screamed out, “Ok, Boomer!” I’m not technically a Boomer, but I should be. Generation X is a little too complicated for me. I still use PayPal, guys! Change is hard.
We have even logged into YouTube on my laptop to play home videos of the kids. They love seeing themselves on screen.
Projector & Speaker Recommendations
Our projector is a 10 year old Epson and still works perfectly today. We have used it countless times over the years. It came with a storage case for protection and we secure it inside after every use. If you take care of your projector, it should last for just as long.
Ours isn’t available anymore, but there are many, many options to choose from and they cost much less than ours did. I don’t have personal experience with any of these, but found the following when searching. (I didn’t list any options by Epson, as they’re much pricier than everything else I found. I had no idea we were so fancy.)
If you are in need of speakers, consider this one by JBL. We use ours literally every day. It’s great for the beach, by the pool, on the patio, etc, etc.
You really can use any speakers that work with your laptop, as you’re simply trying extend the sound from it.
- Bring all of your equipment inside at the end of the night. If you’re ready to put kids to bed and don’t want to take everything down, be sure to at least bring in your projector, laptop, speakers, etc, that could get ruined with morning dew.
- Check for any lighting that might interfere with the screen remaining dark for ideal viewing. We have a sensor light at the door behind our screen. After kids got up 1,295 times to use the bathroom or grab more popcorn, we finally disabled it temporarily.
- Mosquitoes have been tough this year! We wear long pants and long sleeve t-shirts to deter bites. It’s chilly here in Southern California by nightfall, so that works for us. If it’s warm where you are, consider citronella candles or bug spray to keep them from biting. Or…..be me and never get bit. I’m not “sweet enough” it seems. Everyone in the family complains about bites while I cruise in the door without so much as a nibble. Being a terrible person has finally paid off!
- Turn your sprinklers off prior to viewing. We learned this the hard way.
- We often use the fire pit while watching movies. Set yours up far away from the screen, of course. Also consider which way the wind is blowing so that your placement of the pit works with your audience. Roast hot dogs and s’mores for a dinner outside with easy clean up.
Questions? Please leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to find the info you need.