The days are shorter. The nights are cooler. The bugs are gone. There is no better time of year to host a backyard movie night in Kansas City than October. It’s one of the easiest parties to host and it’s fun for all ages so it’s perfect for a neighborhood hang. Bonus: You don’t have to clean your house.
Here’s what you need (and some things you don’t, but why not?):
A projector — If you don’t own a projector, hopefully there is someone on your invite list who you can borrow one from. If not, check CraigsList. You can find one that’s plenty good for this once-a-year event for about $100. If you’re ready to make the investment, The Wire Cutter has a good review on the best cheap projectors.
Laptop or DVD player — If you’re streaming your movie (test your Wi-Fi signal out in the yard ahead of time) or downloaded the movie, you’ll want to hook the projector to a laptop. If you’ve got a DVD, you can bypass the laptop with a DVD player.
Speakers— We actually put old speakers in our Goodwill pile and pulled them out when we realized they would be perfect to keep around for our outdoor movie nights. You can be as high-tech as you want to be, but we had great sound with just speakers on either side of the screen and a center one below the projector.
Screen — This can be as simple as the side of a house or garage, or an ironed bed sheet that you hang off the deck. Since outdoor movie night is a tradition we want to keep up, we bought our own 144” screen that folds up flat and can be stored easily the rest of the year.
Movie — To appeal to both kids and adults I suggest going with a classic family movie from the 80s. To be fair, my answer to everything is the 80s, but if it’s new for the kids and a great throwback for adults, how can you go wrong? Our pick was E.T.
Tables, plates and napkins — Save your recipes for another party. Have everyone bring an app, side dish or dessert to share. Done!
Chairs, blankets and pillows — Have everyone bring their own. There’s no such thing as too many covers and pillows so bring out as many as you have.
Movie Candy — You can get movie-sized candy at the dollar store. Prepackage an assortment of candy for each family to hand out before the movie starts. If you can, do a theme with the snacks. Reece’s Pieces would have been really fun to hand out, but we avoided anything with peanuts due to allergies. (Thanks, Obama.)
Glow Necklaces — These are a big hit with the kids but the reason why I like them is because they make it easy to keep tabs on any little ones who may get up and wander slightly in the backyard before they settle back into their seats.
Hot Chocolate — Our neighbor brought this and it was a great addition for the chilly night. She even had coffee lids which worked out perfectly for the kids to drink without spilling while bundled in their blankets.
**Thanks to our party planning business, we are now the proud owners of the following and we love it because it really does turn a gathering into a party:**
Hotdog roller — This is a really easy way to turn a movie into dinner and a movie. No need for someone to man a grill all night. This baby can feed a crowd quickly, cooking 30 hotdogs at a time in a matter of minutes and keeping them warm until you need them.
Popcorn cart — Popcorn is essential to any movie night. You can pop it all ahead and bag it. We did that last year and it took forever. This year, we have our popcorn cart that not only pops a ton for each batch, but the sight, sounds and smell of having the cart in the backyard add to the ambiance of movie night.
Cotton candy cart — Why not? I’m pretty strict about sugar with my kids but at this point it’s like Christmas in October, so pile it on.
E.T. Movie Review:
I last saw E.T. when it was released in theaters in 1982 so I was fuzzy on just how scary or sad it really was to today’s standards. I prepped my kids (6, 4 and 3) for it by talking about the premise ahead of time: A friendly but scared alien was accidentally left on earth. The kids became friends with him and wanted to help him, while the adults were afraid of him and not very nice to him because he was different (there’s a life lesson in there).
We also watched the trailer on YouTube together a few times, so their first exposer to the alien was way less intimating on a much smaller screen and during the day. Outside of a little language (which flew over my kids’ heads) I think E.T. is a great choice for younger and older kids and the PERFECT choice for an October outdoor movie night because the movie takes place in October so the weather in the movie matched the weather in the backyard perfectly.
Backyard Movie Night Pro Tips:
• Start the event about an hour before sunset. Plenty of time to eat, run around and socialize before the movie begins.
• Put a kitchen mat over the extension cords running from the speakers to the projector so no one trips on them after dark.
• Dress your kids in their PJs and slip on shoes. The movie will end after bedtime so if they’re already dressed for bed, it makes life just a little bit easier. Slip on shoes help because they are easy to get on and off as they play ahead of time and then bundle in the blankets.
• Include a poll with a few movie choices with your invite and have people vote with their RSVP, revealing the winner the night of the event.