When I was a little girl, my dad would take me and my brother to the drive-in theater near our hometown of McMinnville, Oregon to see a double-feature of whatever kid’s movies were playing. Now I’m sure the last thing he wanted to do with his time was to sit in a car with two kids who were hopped up on sugar and caffeine and spend three hours watching Disney Films like In Search of the Castaways and Blackbeard’s Ghost, but he did it for one reason, my dad loved watching movies outdoors.
Of course, as time went on, drive-in theaters became a thing of the past and have all but dried up (although the 99W Drive-In in Newberg, Ore is still going strong) and by the time I was a teenager the idea of sitting in a car watching movies with dear ole dad was akin to being shot in the face with a pellet gun (meaning, I’d rather be dead then caught with my parents anywhere).
But now, those nostalgic feelings about being outdoors and watching a movie are pulling at me and because I miss my dad and wish he were still here with me so I could tell him that he was right, that there’s nothing like eating a tub of popcorn in the front seat of a car (or out on the grass) while people are inappropriately touching one another next to you, I have put together a how-to guide on throwing your own outdoor movie party.
Yes, I am that giving of a person.
So without further ado, here’s what you need to do:
1. Think about a theme. Do you want it to be kid friendly? A horror festival? A Sci-fi Marathon? It’s important to keep the movies in the same vein so that the evening flows well. Paring Star Wars with Freddy vs. Jason has a way of making people a bit flummoxed so try to keep genres together.
One of my favorite places to get movies is Something Weird Video. They have a selection of films that no one else has and can make movie night a real treat. For instance, they have a selection of Christian Scare films that are hilarious, Grindhouse and Burlesque shorts, Old Sci-Fi and Creature Features, and even a huge selection of Herschel Gordon Lewis films (including Blood Feast) that will definitely shock and awe you (and most movies run about $10 a piece)
2. Send out invites (and not evites). People still like getting mail and an invitation to a movie night outdoors will make your get-together seem a bit more posh and Martha Stewart-ish (And that’s a Good Thing). Make the arrival time about 30 minutes before dusk so that people have time to mill about, eat, and socialize before they have to shut the hell up for a couple of hours.
3. Rent a portable DVD projector from a party shop or from an online store (you can even rent the speaker system if you need it) they run anywhere from $70-$150 for one night, so shop around. If you want to buy one be prepared to shell out some dough, they are pretty expensive, but if you see yourself throwing multiple movie nights outside, then by all means invest in a good system. (Do a test-run on your equipment BEFORE the party starts so you know how everything works and where to set up the project for the best possible viewing. Nothing ruins a party faster than a broken projector or your inability to set it up).
4. Get yourself a cheap, white queen or king-size sheet. If you already have one you’re gonna need to starch it and then iron out all the wrinkles (this should be its only use from now on). It’s important that the sheet is completely flat. You will also need to find a place to hang it. If you have a free wall outside pin it there, otherwise, rig-up a clothes line and attach it to that (making sure to weight the bottom so that it doesn’t blow around-I attach grommets to the bottom and then use twine to tie it to tent stakes so that it’s tight).
5. Munchies. It’s the all-important ingredient to a good party. Keep it simple and movie friendly. Pop up a bunch of popcorn and give everyone their own bowl. Set-up a station where they can add seasonings, chocolate, cheese or whatever else they would like on it (you’d be surprised by how happy people get when they can pimp out their popcorn). Also include a selection of candy, soda and beer so that your guests stay fed and on a sugar high).
6. Seating/Setting: I’m not big on putting out chairs, I’m more of a blanket and pillow person, so, if you want to go my route, ask everyone in their invite to bring a blanket to share. Of course, the seating is all dependent on your venue. If you plan on being on a flat surface like grass or a driveway, then go for the blanket; if you are on rocky ground go with lawn chairs. It’s up to you.
7. Lighting: I like to have a few tiki torches lit so that people can see where they are stepping as well as where the beer is (this is mostly for myself). Just keep the light away from the screen so that the picture remains sharp.
8. Start the movie.
And that’s it folks.
I have found that once you have one movie night, you will soon be pestered to have more. Maybe it has something to do with snuggling with someone under a blanket while watching an MST3k film on a large sheet that makes people want to do it over and over again, I don’t know, but trust me, there is nothing in the world like eating chocolate and chili powder popcorn with a cold Woodchuck Ale, surrounded by nature, while Jason murders someone with a pitchfork.