How to create an outdoor cinema at home

Transform your garden into a boho lounge with these tips from Wishful Events

You’ve probably seen it on Instagram. A floor filled with rattan garden furniture and polar bear-like fluffy rugs; candles glimmering in jam jars and Pinterest-perfect bowls of popcorn; and the centrepiece, a vast, white, fairy-light framed screen.

We are, of course, talking about outdoor cinema. In recent years, going to the cinema has been transformed from sitting in a mildly itchy seat at your local Odeon to immersive, aesthetically driven experiences that go far beyond the edges of the screen.

And if anyone knows anything about setting up the perfect outdoor cinema, it’s Wishful Events. The only thing the bespoke events company love more than attending parties is setting up a meticulously detailed event for someone else, including creating the perfect outdoor cinema experience from the comfort of your back garden. 

“I came up with the idea last summer when we were in lockdown and having such lovely weather. I wanted to create a boho movie night experience that was super cosy and romantic,” says founder Ozge. “I wanted it to be a sensory experience – a form of escapism similar to that which we get whilst watching films.”

We asked Ozge for her tips for creating the perfect backyard cinema – from finding the perfect projector to perfectly arranging candles. All that’s left for you to sort is the film…

1. Choose your projector

The key to any outdoor cinema is, of course, the projector. Whilst some models can get expensive, there are plenty of budget options on the market that will do the trick nicely. One thing to bear in mind when choosing your projector is the lumen measurement, which you want to be as high as possible for outdoors to ensure you can still see the screen. “The projector should have a range of 1,300-1,500 lumens for a darkened room,” says Ozge. “However, I would recommend going higher for outdoors. We use a 4000 ANSI lumen with full HD 1081p resolution”.

2. Arrange your screen

Next up: the screen. Ozge recommends using a plain wall if you’ve got one or draping a big white sheet over something like a washing line. “If you’ve got a fence, you could hang it from that – or if you’re handy with DIY, you could build a wooden frame that could be hung from the fence or a wall, and you could then staple the sheet to that”.

3. Sort out the lighting

Nailing the lighting is crucial to create the cosy, boho atmosphere that Wishful Events are renowned for – and that means investing in some fairy lights and candles. Ozge recommends placing tea lights in vases and adding strings of lights – solar powered are best for outside – artfully around the seating area to create the best vibe. “Create height and depth by using candles and vases of different heights. With the fairy lights, either use them to shape the seating area or extend them down the screen; this will frame the area to make it feel extra cosy.”

4. Get cosy

Speaking of cosy, it’s time to talk about seating. Wishful Events use beautiful deckchairs and rattan sofas to create a seriously comfortable base, but you can easily create a comfortable vibe using whatever you’ve got at home. “I would recommend using a groundsheet to line muddy or wet grounds,” says Ozge. “Try using an outdoor rug as a base, then add layers of blankets, smaller rugs and cushions on the floor to make it super cosy. We also love adding texture and detail by using different materials like wooden furniture and dried flowers”. 

5. Sort the snacks

It’s a truth universally recognised that the major pull of watching films at home is being able to eat your own snacks without feeling like you’re about to be busted for smuggling. So, go wild and go free with your munching materials. Ozge’s go-to's are popcorn (“of course!”), preztels and stacks of donuts – as well as any items in bowls that can be easily shared (and, of course, look pretty).