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

Make the most of your garden and the warm summer evenings by hosting a garden party or magical movie screening - just add popcorn.

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 hosting a movie night or a garden party 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 the 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. Preparation and the right equipment is everything. Here we show you how to create your very own garden cinema.

How to set the scene

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 event one to remember.

Comfortable seating and keeping warm

Pile of blankets ready to warm up garden party guests
Have 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 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 screen. Cushions, blankets, deckchairs and rugs are ideal – and will keep everyone warm if the temperatures drop.

Show off your 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), 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

A large container of ice keeps a pink bottle of lemonade chilled with freshly chopped oranges, cucumbers and edible floral and foliage garnishes
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. 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.

Create a party atmosphere

Soft white material bunting hangs in between trees in a garden to create a party atmosphere
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

A garden lantern offers warm lighting placed next to a planted box tree dressed with fairy lights on a summers evening in the garden
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.

Show off your garden at its best

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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 projector screen will ass 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

1

CHRISTIE LHD700

CHRISTIE LHD700

Approx £9,000
Resolution 1920 x 1080p
Brightness 7,000 lumens
This high end projector is so powerful you can even use it during the day
2

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

3

BENQ MH740

BENQ MH740

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

Stockists

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Words Rosanna Morris
Photographs Sean Malyon, seanmalyon.co.uk
Styling Rosanna Morris and Niki Goss