How to Create a Home Outdoor Theater

October 5, 2020

When it comes to setting up an outdoor theater, I have to admit I’m not an expert on the technology side of the equation and so if you have any suggestions, please share for everyone in the comments below!  But in my mind, it’s not really about having the perfect picture, or the perfect sound, a smokeless fire or matching chairs, etc.  In fact, the best nights we have around the home outdoor theater are the ones where it all becomes background noise as our friends stop by for good conversation, laughs and a night full of memories.

Home outdoor theaters aren’t like clothes, and while I wear a different outfit everyday (ok, more than one outfit a day!), I only have one of each of the items that I think make for the perfect outdoor setup.  With that said, I’ll share with you what I have and some other suggestions based on some basic research we’ve performed, but just want to be clear that unlike all of the clothes I wear, I haven’t tested each of the items in this post!  Nonetheless, what makes a perfect outdoor theater? I’ve outlined my view below (meaning, my husband did :)), and tried to keep everything on Amazon to create a one-stop shop to create the perfect outdoor experience……

Outdoor Theater Must Haves….

The motherchic home outdoor theater

Projector | Screen | Speakers | Extension Cord | Extra Plug Adaptor | HDMI Cord | HDMI Adapter

All of the above are the essential items to create your own home outdoor theater. I included all of the details below about each item below!

Outdoor Projector

I’m pretty sure when I bought my projector a few years ago, I simply asked the salesperson what would be good for an outdoor movie experience.  I’m pretty sure he said something like, “this one should work”, and I went with it no questions asked. It was a great decision, but as we’ve used it over the years, I’ve had some help from friends in outlining what to look for in a projector, with some recommendations at the end:

  1. Clarity and Brightness:  
    • Clarity:  These days, most projectors are at least fully HD capable, meaning at least 1080p. Some are 4k capable and, if you want to buy a projector rather than a new car, 8k capable. We have 1080p and don’t see any need for anything more!
    • Brightness is measured in lumens, and the measurements are governed by ANSI (i.e., when comparing lumens, make sure they are ASNI measurements). I’ve read that 3000 lumens should do the trick for most people with up to a 200 inch screen (ours isn’t that big). The one we have is 3100 lumens and works perfectly for us unless its in broad daylight, and not sure if any projector would work in broad daylight.
  2. Connecting to sound:  Some projectors have internal speakers.  Ours does, but its not really loud enough for a large outdoor space.  I’d recommend you ensure your projector is Bluetooth capable, meaning it can connect to Bluetooth speakers for better sound. We use these JBL Flip 5 bluetooth speakers that are able to pair together for surround sound.  Of course, there are a million other options with ranging prices which can be filtered here.
  3. Connecting to source media:  One challenge we’ve often had is how to stream various content through the projector.  There are countless ways to do this with the options below…..

Some projectors even come with wireless/smart capability. But the safest bet, and what we’ve used without issue, are basic HDMI connections between the projector and our laptops. Note, depending on whether your computer has an HDMI input, you may need an adapter to complete the connection. Most newer laptops have a USB-C port – if so, an HDMI to USB-C adapter will work. 

So….which one to get? This is the projector we have, but there are a million options that fit the criteria above, all with great feedback from users with a fairly wide range of prices. I’ve included a few below:

Outdoor Theater Screen

This is the screen we have  – its 80 inches, folds up nicely and comes with both a stand and an attachment to fix it on a structure (ours is fixed to a fence).  There are a million options from complete blow up screens to basic sheets – you can filter these results to find what works best for you.  

Outdoor Theater Accessories 

Just to make sure you don’t hit any snags as you set your outdoor home theater up, I’d suggest an extension cord  and pronged adapter for extra power, as it seems we’re always plugging more things in than we expected! 

Outdoor Theater Seating:  

Chairs:  For years we’ve had wooden adirondack chairs and they’ve been great, but were looking for something that were a bit deeper than we had.  So, we recently decided to make an investment in new chairs and decided to go with a resin based chair that will hopefully last forever!  Of course, chairs come in a variety of styles, materials and price points.

Swing: This is one area where I’ll deviate from Amazon.  We have this porch swing from Ballard Designs.  I can tell you I didn’t pay that price! There are always sales at Ballard, and of course you can always lookout for a discount by signing up for their email list. We weren’t crazy about the chains that supported it, so purchased these ropes from Amazon

BYOB: Bring your own blanket, that is! We always encourage friend and neighbors to bring something comfortable to sit on and something to keep warm. Outdoor blankets are always a must as we head into the colder months.

A few things to create the perfect ambiance….

Outdoor Firepit

The Motherchic home outdoor movie theater

It’s the best part of the night, as long as its not smokey!  There are so many choices when it comes to firepits and so many price ranges.  All of the firepits below are from Amazon and are generally economical.  Can you spend hundreds on one like this or thousands on something fancier?  Sure, you can, but I don’t think you need to.

Chiminea:  We have one of these and it seems generally less smokey than the open fire pit, but my brother in law tells me if the fire is hot, one shouldn’t really be any smokier than the other.  To get the fire started off right, we use a “safe for cooking” starter.   We have this chiminea, but a few others are included below…..

Large utility no frills fire pit:  We also have one of these, and it’s hard to beat the open fire.  There are almost infinite designs for firepits, but the cast iron, copper and steel seem to capture most of the market.  Again, you can spend thousands, but these firepits will do the same thing…

Smokeless fire pit:  I’ve been to friends houses who a have smokeless firepit  – they seem pretty smokeless based on my experience, and the reviews seem to say the same! They are a bit more expensive, but would love to hear your thoughts in comments if you have one and think it’s worth it!

I know that seems like a lot of information and happy to answer any questions! We use our home outdoor theater all the time and it has been well worth the investment in these pieces. When we aren’t outdoors, our boys set the projector up on a blank wall in our basement to play video games. Let know if you’d like a post on that too 😂.

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