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How to make an outdoor cinema in your garden

This is everything you need to have a film night under the stars

Louise Whitbread
Friday 22 May 2020 14:50
With just a plain white bed sheet and a mini projector, you can create the experience at home
With just a plain white bed sheet and a mini projector, you can create the experience at home

As summery weather is fast approaching, we’ll be spending most of our weekends in the garden.

During the day, cook up a BBQ with our ultimate guide to tools, recipes and BBQs here, but when the sunsets, create your very own cinematic experience outdoors.

As it’s unlikely you’ll be making trips to the cinema anytime soon, you can bring the cinema to you – and you only need a few items.

It doesn’t have to be expensive (bar the projector, but there are plenty of affordable ones), nor does it necessarily require a huge space and best of all, you can watch whatever you want from one of the many streaming services available.

Here’s how to make it work.

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Get a projector

The most important part of your at-home cinema setup is the projector. Without it, you won't get very close to the cinema experience.

The APEMAN Portable Mini Projector 4500 (Amazon, £79.99) is one that won’t break the bank but still delivers good quality LED images in 1080P full HD, especially in a garden that has low light. It also comes with a remote control so you can browse through a library of films just like you would on your TV.

This inexpensive projector delivers a high-quality picture and is compatible with your phone, laptop, TV and Xbox

It’s portable so you can compactly store it when you're not using it, and it's compatible with PCs, laptops, MacBooks, PS3/4, X-Box, iOS and Android phones.

Set up your screen

Once you’ve got your projector sorted, next is assembling a screen, which can be done easily with a plain – ideally white – bed sheet.

You can peg this to a washing line that’s in front of a plain fence or tape it to a wall.

If the bottom of the sheet is touching the floor, secure it with heavy objects on either side such as plant pots or garden gnomes, just in case it gets breezy and the wind ruins the picture.

Prop the projector on a table, or stack of books, in front of the screen and hook it up from a laptop, TV or phone to the HDMI, VGA, USB, Micro SD, RCA AV ports that the above projector is compatible with.

Then, all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the show.

Create a cosy seating area

There’s nothing worse than being uncomfortable throughout a film, so grab a picnic blanket, cosy outdoor cushions, scented candles and a bag of popcorn to munch on.

The VonShef picnic blanket (VonShef, £24.99) is made from a hard-wearing fleece polyester that makes for a comfy sit-down and has a waterproof backing for non-soggy sitting.

This picnic blanket from Von Shef looks smart and rolls up easily to be secured with dark brown leather-look carry straps

It came top in our IndyBest guide of best picnic blankets too and was one of the largest blankets we tried, measuring 147cm long and 180cm wide which will fit four people. Perfect for dining alfresco too.

Stay comfortable when sitting on a picnic blanket by adding fluffy outdoor cushions (We Love Cushions)

Surround your picnic blanket with outdoor cushions to make it extra plush. These durable, waterproof We Love Cushions large outdoor cushions (We Love Cushions, from £39.99) impressed us for being soft and bouncy, ideal for cosying up on a balmy summer’s night.

However, if you fancy a more structured set up with furniture, these colourful House by John Lewis salsa garden mini chairs set of 2 (John Lewis & Partners, £98) will make a nice addition to brighten up your garden. Simply add cushions to make them comfortable enough for the entire film.

Add a pop of colour to your garden furniture with these orange ombre rattan chairs (John Lewis & Partners)

Decorate with outdoor candles too, which will add low lighting that’s pretty but won’t affect the screen quality. Dot these Pure Thoughts meditation candle collection set of four (Pure Thoughts, £62) around your patio to fill your space with a calming fragrance.

Lighting a candle with a relaxing scent can help make your environment a more pleasant place to pass the time during lockdown

In our IndyBest guide to the best-scented candles, the vegan-friendly soy wax candles came out on top. Our reviewer found each one burns cleanly for 18 hours and throws its scent well for its size. Choose from the energising lemongrass scent of “gratitude”, the soothing lavender of “peace”, the sweet geranium of “love” and the earthy patchouli of “trust”.

Grab a drink

The best thing about bringing the cinema to you, is that you can eat and drink whatever your like there. For us, that's a great excuse to bring the shaker out with a homemade cocktail or two. We've compiled a guide to the best three-ingredient cocktails – so you don't need ott ingredients to have cocktails at home.

An underrated, easy one to make, that will make you feel like you’re on holiday, rather than in your garden is the ginger pear cocktails. All you need is pear juice, vodka and ginger ale. Shake together and pour.

Create your own beer-tasting session with this party box from Honest Brew (Honest Brew/The Independent)

If your preferred tipple is beer, try this Honest Brew party box (Honestbrew, £59.90). It’s a carefully curated case of 24 beers featuring breweries like Northern Monk, Verdant and Wild Beer Co, so you can have fun finding a new favourite.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.