Hacks & How-Tos

Bring the Movies to Your Backyard with this Budget-Friendly Outdoor Movie Projector Setup

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An Outdoor Movie Projector Setup that Won't Break the Bank

Is it just me? Or does anyone else miss going to the movie theater? Dinner and a movie used to be one of our go-to dates, but we haven’t been in over 5 months due to the associated health risks. With that in mind, I set out to find a way to bring the movies home to us without breaking the bank with a great outdoor movie project setup. Here is a Primed Find you won’t want to miss out on.

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Picking a Good Location

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Before you start planning out your outdoor movie projector setup, you are going to have to scout out suitable locations on your property. The area should be comfortable and a good place to sit for a couple hours. It should be far enough away from your neighbors so your DIY drive-in does not drive them crazy. If it’s on the lawn, make sure the grass is nice and mowed. This will help keep the creepy crawlers to a minimum. If using chairs for seating, look for a nice flat area and equally comfortable chairs. We have been using these compact folding adirondack chairs and they are great. Their ability to lean back further than other adirondack style chairs eliminates any neck strain you may have after watching a flick on your outdoor movie projector. If you will be sitting on the ground or on blankets a slight incline would be a plus, mimicking the stadium seating found in an actual movie theater. Most importantly, make sure your location is close enough to a power outlet (or two) and within range of your home’s wifi as you will need that in order to stream a flick. We’ve tried out a couple locations on our property so far, but we found that our driveway works best for us. 

Finding a Projector and Screen (or Something to Project on)

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Once you have your location pinned down, it’s time to start looking for an outdoor movie projector and projector screen (if you need it). This part can get expensive…anywhere from $50 up to the thousands. I decided that I wanted to keep it under $150, and without the need for an actual outdoor projector screen (we just project the movie directly onto our white garage door), I was able to do just that. After researching for a couple days, I decided to pull the trigger on the AuKing Mini Projector 2020 and I’m glad I did. This thing is awesome! While it’s not rated for outdoor use, it is very portable and only takes a few minutes to set up and break down. It’s compact, the picture is perfect, it’s extremely quiet and it has an HDMI input with auxiliary audio output. It has everything I was looking for and it is currently listed on Amazon for $89.99. If you are looking for an outdoor projector screen, check out P-JING’s 120 inch indoor/outdoor projector screen here. 

Setting up Audio

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Although the AuKing projector does have a built-in speaker, it was not quite what I was hoping for in terms of sound quality and volume for my outdoor movie projector setup. Of course, I could have splurged for the surround sound system or even a sound bar, but my wallet quickly reminded me that other budget-friendly options do exist. And for that reason, I decided to add ION’s Audio Block Rocker Plus to my backyard movie projector setup. Not only does the speaker pack a powerful 100 watt punch, but it’s portable and even has a telescoping handle and wheels. It is super easy to set up and the battery will outlast an all night movie marathon. Once the credits start to roll, you can even stream music off your mobile device via bluetooth connection. Check it out here. 

Hooking up Video

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So you’ve got the picture and the sound. Now you need a movie to watch. The AuKing projector I purchased for our outdoor movie projector setup came with both an HDMI and VGA input. We decided it would be too much of a hassle to bring our laptops outside each time we wanted to watch a movie in the backyard so we opted to go the HDMI route and bought an inexpensive Amazon Fire TV Stick. We just plug it directly into the projector and, viola, the interface pops right up on our outdoor projector screen. We found that this was the best way to stream movies in our backyard or on the garage because it has built-in apps for every single one of our paid streaming services and it comes with a nifty remote that makes it really easy to navigate in the dark. Check it out here.

And Now the Best Part...Finding Some Concessions

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Now comes my favorite part…the food. If you are trying to recreate the traditional dinner and a movie date, bust out your grill and uncork a bottle of wine. Just last weekend, my wife and I baked pizzas while livestreaming a concert on our outdoor projector with the help of our trusty Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill. If traditional movie fare is more your cup of tea, then stick with your guns. Last month, we had a couple friends over (socially distanced, of course) to watch Hamilton with our new outdoor movie projector setup. My wife made everyone individual goody bags full of candy and popcorn and they were such a hit. Pro tip: instead of popping multiple bags of popcorn inside in your microwave, get yourself one of these. It will save time, you won’t miss any of the movie, and the nostalgia is priceless.

Let the Show Begin

Overall, I am extremely happy with our outdoor movie projector setup. It has seen its fair share of use throughout its first summer in commission and I am certain it will bring hours upon hours of enjoyment for years to come. Who knows…maybe we will get a chance to catch some Monday Night Football on the outdoor projector screen this fall!

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