An outdoor cinema set up in a domestic garden complete with snack trolley, fire pit and deck chairs to help with the entertainment

Outdoor cinema: How to make an outdoor cinema in your garden

Make a garden cinema and the warm summer evenings by hosting a garden party or magical movie screening in the outdoors. Words Rosanna Morris, photographs Sean Malyon, styling Rosanna Morris and Niki Goss

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Sitting in the garden at night during the warmer months is magical, and it’s a time to really appreciate all the hard work you’ve put into your borders and beds  throughout the year. And what could be more enchanting than having an outdoor cinema movie night under the stars to make the most of your garden in summer?

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An outdoor cinema set up in a domestic garden complete with snack trolley, fire pit and deck chairs to help with the entertainment

Picture your outdoor cinema  scene. It’s a balmy summer’s evening. Festoon lights twinkle and bunting flutters in the branches of a magnolia tree. A fire crackles. The warming scent of your Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ mingled with that of Jasminum officinale and freshly cut grass lingers in the air. The score for Moulin Rouge plays out across your manicured lawn, where friends and family are lounging on blankets and cushions, nibbling popcorn watching the big screen. Preparation and the right equipment is everything for a garden cinema. Here we show you how to create your very own.

The beginnings of your outdoor cinema

Here is some inspiration to help you plan your own garden party or outdoor cinema screening. Remember detail is everything so don’t hold back on the little things that will add atmosphere and make your garden cinema night one to remember.

Comfortable seating and keeping warm outdoor

Pile of blankets ready to warm up garden party guests at your home cinema
Make sure your garden cinema has lots of blankets to hand for guests to snuggle up in when the sun goes down.

You need to transform an area of your garden into a cosy outdoor living room for the evening – a few chairs scattered about will not cut the mustard. And you don’t want your guests getting cold or eaten by midges, either. What’s more, you need to keep seating quite low so everyone can see the cinema screen. Cushions, blankets, deckchairs and rugs are ideal – and will keep everyone warm if the temperatures drop. There’s a nice selection of blankets here, including this exceptionally warm faux fur blanket.  And don’t miss our selection of the best fire pits for your garden.

Show off your cinema hosting skills

Deckchairs set up for outdoor cinema
Upturned apple crates are a great addition to the garden cinema set-up so guests can rest drinks down without fear of them being knocked over.

Having places to rest drinks and candles (citronella will help keep the insects at bay) while watching the film, such as old apple crates is another consideration. Attention to detail and thoughtfulness always goes down well at a party and this is a chance to show of your hosting skills.

Drinks and snacks

Drinks are necessary for guests at an outdoor cinema
Keep bottled drinks cool in a big ice bowl and decorate with edible flowers, such as violas and forage, which can also be added to drinks or frozen in ice cubes.

Don’t worry about going too mad with food, as guests will only expect snacks for your outdoor cinema. Think cute bowls of popcorn, sweets, mini cupcakes and savoury nibbles. Have bottles of beer and soft drinks chilling in a bucket of ice and a summer cocktail, or home-made lemonade or elderflower cordial that you can serve in drinks jars with pretty patterned paper straws. Here’s our recipes page for home-cooked goodness. 

Create an outdoor cinema party atmosphere

Soft white material bunting hangs in between trees in an outdoor cinema
String bunting through trees and along walls to create a party atmosphere.

Keep decorations simple, as the garden and lights will do most of the work, however, bunting strung from tree to tree or along  a fence or wall always looks good.

Lighting is key for a garden cinema

A garden lantern offers warm lighting for your outdoor cinema party
Fairy lights and festoon lighting gives a festival feel and work particularly well strung in trees or through shrubs such as box.

Lighting only makes sitting in the garden at night all the more enchanting. To guide your guests, dot lanterns and tea light holders along pathways and walls. You can burn citronella candles in these too, to keep midges at bay. Festoon lights look attractive and also give off enough brightness so no one will trip over in the dark. Fairy lights (plug-in, solar or battery powered) draped among the foliage and lanterns dotted along pathways (try tea lights in jam jars) add to the magic of your outdoor cinema. We love these vintage-looking outdoor lights from Cox & Cox. 

Show off your garden at its best

Your outdoor cinema

No doubt, you’ll want to show your garden off at its best, so don’t hold back with plants and flowers. Think about moving planted containers close to the seating and food areas, and display home-grown flowers in jam jars and vases. A few pots of lavender or clipped box placed along the bottom of the cinema screen will add a touch of theatricality.

Technical help

You’ve sorted the seating and the snacks but what about showing the actual film?

You will need:

  • Projector
  • Screen
  • Decent speakers (with amplifier)
  • DVD player or laptop
  • HDMI lead to connect the projector to the DVD player or laptop

3 of the best projectors

Optoma UHD42

Optoma UHD42 projector for your outdoor cinema

£1,199.00
Brightness 3400 lumens
Resolution 4K Ultra HD resolution
Note: Can be 3D!
A high-end popular projector with integrated speakers. 

Buy here

OPTOMA EH400

Simplicity in design, the Optoma EH400 projector is bright and portable with a spec of 4,000 lumen, 1080p.

£627.86
Resolution 1920 x 1080p
Brightness 4,000 lumens
A mid-range projector, at a good price
Buy here

BENQ MH740

BENQ MH740

£776.40
Resolution 1920 x 1080p
Brightness 4,000 lumens
A reasonably priced model that is nice and bright

Buy here

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