Summer’s in full swing! And what better way to enjoy a warm June evening than by hosting an outdoor movie night? Invite all your friends over, dust off that projector, drag out the cooler, and press play.

1. Choose the film 

The first step to hosting a killer outdoor movie night is choosing the right movie. Pick your flick wisely — it’s usually best to go for a known crowd pleaser, like an old family favorite, a cult classic, or an ’80s movie.

2. Establish sight and sound

Unless you feel like dragging a big-screen television out to the backyard, you’ll need a projector. Though if you don’t already have one on hand, projectors can cost a pretty penny. There’s always a chance a friend has one gathering dust in their garage, so before you bite the bullet for a brand-new one, ask around.

Once you’ve secured your projector, decide where you want to show the movie. You don’t need a fancy screen for this. Just grab a simple white bedsheet and hang it on the side of your house, a fence, a shed — basically anywhere with the clearest view! Make sure you have all the necessary connecting cords for the projector and a computer to stream the movie or play the DVD.

Once you’ve got the visuals handled, you’ll need to address the sound. A large wireless speaker should do the trick. Again, they can be pricey, so if you don’t already own one, check out other options, like an amp. For that, you’ll need a simple HDMI cable connecting your computer or DVD player to the projector and (most likely) 2 analog RCA L/R cables connecting the movie player of your choice to the sound. There are many different kinds of cables out there, so check your equipment to see what’ll work best with what you have.

Make sure that wherever you place the electronics, there’s ample access to outlets, or you have plenty of extension cords on hand in case something needs to be plugged in. You don’t want to have to stop the movie halfway through to charge up a wireless speaker.

Once you have all the electronics in place, do a trial run to avoid technical difficulties on the night of the big event.

3. Create a magical ambiance 

Part of what makes hosting an outdoor movie night so much fun is the opportunity to transform your regular backyard into someplace fun, festive, and cozy after dark. Gather up plenty of blankets, comforters, pillows, and sleeping bags and arrange them “amphitheater style” in front of the bedsheet screen. If you’re expecting a large group, consider adding BYOB (Bring Your Own Blanket) to the invitation to ensure no one gets too chilly once the sun goes down. And in case you have guests who might not be comfortable on the ground, set up a row of lawn chairs in the very back.

You’ll want it to be dark enough to see the movie, but not so dark people can’t see where they’re going. Consider placing tiki torches around the yard or stringing up twinkle lights or paper lanterns for ambiance. Bonus: they’ll also help guide your guests toward the house or the cooler.

4. Keep refreshments close

Speaking of beverages, no outdoor movie night would be complete without some delicious snacks and drinks. Hit up the candy aisle at your local supermarket or drugstore and stock up on different movie theater-sized boxes. Pop plenty of popcorn. And if you want to get even more gourmet, provide a variety of sweet and savory toppings for people to choose from to “dress” their own.

Stock a couple of coolers with beverages and keep them close by so people won’t need to head to the fridge and disrupt the movie. Set up everything in advance on tables toward the back of the blankets so your guests won’t block the screen when getting up to help themselves to more food. Or just place everything in bowls in the center of the pillows and blankets and make it a giant free-for-all.

Once the sun goes down and everyone’s settled in their spots, press play and enjoy the show.

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about Hannah

Hannah Fairbanks is a freelance writer living in San Francisco with her husband and 2 daughters. When she’s not writing, you might find her reading, packing bento box lunches for her kids, and making sure she gets in at least 10,000 Fitbit steps a day.