DIY Outdoor Theater: How to Make a Drive-In Theater at Home


On June 6th of 1933, when the United States was arguably at its worst, the first drive-in movie theater opened in New Jersey. For the first viewers, the theater must have felt like a welcome escape from the struggles of the times.

Today, we're facing a different kind of struggle, and a drive-in theater might be the perfect distraction. Unfortunately, they no longer exist in most places. Unfortunately, drive-ins became less popular after the sixties, and most of them were closed by the 1990s.

The good news is that there are ways to create your own DIY outdoor theater. We'll offer some suggestions in the paragraphs below.


1. Find a Projector
Before you can create a drive-in theater, you must first make a functioning theater. The simplest way to do this is by getting a projector. You could also put your TV outside, but might not be the best for your set. Some of the most affordable projectors cost about $90, and higher-end ones can cost several hundred dollars.

If you know somebody with a projector, you might want to ask to borrow it. There's no guarantee they'll lend it to you, and the current pandemic probably won't help your chances. Still, it's always worth a shot.

2. Set up Audio
Unless you're planning on watching a silent movie, you're going to need a sound system. Bluetooth speakers are recommended.

Speakers are much more affordable than projectors. A set of speakers may run you less than $50. If you're the type who likes to spend more to make sure you get a high-quality product, there are many other options to choose from.

Cost is not the only thing to consider when buying speakers, though. You also have to decide how powerful you want the speakers to be. Your options may differ depending on your situation.
Those living in a rural area aren't as likely to bother neighbors, so you speakers can be much louder without worrying about complaints. The majority of us live in more urbanized areas, be it a cozy suburb or noisy city. We'll have to find a volume that can be heard by you but not necessarily by those next door.

3. Protection and Storage
Weatherproofing is also an issue. Most of us aren't going to be watching movies during thunderstorms or tornadoes, but that doesn't mean the theater equipment is completely safe.
Many people don't have space in their homes to store projectors and speakers, and others would just prefer to store them in a garage or shed. There's nothing wrong with storing equipment outdoors as long as you know how to protect it.

When building a DIY drive-in movie theater, you need to pay attention to the weather. Know when it's safe to watch a movie without damaging any equipment.

Things happen, though. Perhaps your garage or basement floods or your shed gets struck by lightning and catches fire. Now, you've spent at least one hundred dollars on something only to have it be destroyed. 

The situation gets even worse if you borrowed the equipment. Suddenly, you may be at odds with friends or relatives because something broke under your care that wasn't yours to break.
If your equipment is waterproof, there's less of a risk of damage.

4. Screen
Be it a DIY outdoor theater or a professional theater, it has to have a screen. The great thing about projectors is that you don't necessarily have to buy a screen.

Any number of things can be used as a projector screen. People have used everything from bed sheets to wrapping paper to a blank wall. If you can get a decently clear picture on it, you can use it as a screen.

The other part of figuring out a screen is deciding on the right size. The best screen size is going to be partly determined by how many people are going to be watching the movie. The rest depends on personal preference and what you have available.

5. Movie
Once you have the theater set up, all that's left is to sit back and watch the movie. Unfortunately, even this is a little more complicated than watching a movie in your home.
You can't slip a movie disk into a projector. You'll need to use some form of media storage that can export movie files.

This problem can be solved by hooking a laptop up to the projector with an HDMI cable. This may require downloading the movie from apps like Google Play. You'll need internet to download movies, but once you have them, you can play them anywhere.

You could also use streaming services like Netflix to play movies directly from the internet. In addition to an internet connection, you'll also need to subscribe to one of these services.
You have a lot of options when it comes to streaming services. In addition to Netflix and Hulu, there are also network-specific services like Disney+ and HBO now. You can even find services to one specific genre of movie, like Crunchyroll for anime and Shudder for horror.

Now You Know How to Set Up a DIY Outdoor Theater
A DIY outdoor theater can be a perfect solution to the long days of social distancing and staying at home. We've offered some advice on how to create your own drive-in in this article, but the options are limitless. You might want to research things a little farther before you decide which theater setup is right for you.

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