Summer is here and July in Muskoka is a great time to setup a backyard movie theater. I’ve been watching films in my own backyard for almost 9 years and the technology keeps on evolving making that experience even better and easier to accomplish. Watching this summer in cottage country as my family deals with some health issues will be a strong bonding experience.
You can read about how I accomplished my own setup here and use some of our tips to make your own backyard movie theater when the weather gets warmer or even for months like September if you live in New England or the Jersey Shore like myself.
One of the biggest factors when watching a film outdoors is natural light and how it impacts the image that you see. UST projectors might work in your living room with ambient light but that is not going to be the case when watching outside.
If you want to enjoy movies under the stars the way they were meant to be seen, a good projector is just half the equation. You need to get the best outdoor projection screen to meet your needs. You also don’t need to go broke doing it.
A cheap inferior screen or a bedsheet (shudder), will not deliver an accurate image, be unable to resolve a 4K or even 1080p resolution image, they’ll have creases, wrinkles, tears, and very likely a lack of reflectivity to produce a bright enough image.
Those flaws in the surface will take you out of the cinematic experience that an outdoor big screen can provide. No one wants their movie night ruined by a bad projection surface. Don’t be that guy.
For outdoor movie watching you need to get the correct projector and screen. If you’re not sure what outside option is right for you, you can use this guide to everything you need to know about outdoor projection screens and projectors for your backyard
To help make your choice easier, we’ve compiled a list of the best outdoor movie screens so you and your family can enjoy warm nights outside together, enjoying their favorite movies.
Best Retractable Outdoor Screens
Draper Nocturne Series C
If you’re looking for a more permanent outdoor setup, a retractable outdoor projector screen for your backyard or patio is likely the best option.
A manual crank-operated projection screen, the Draper Nocturne/Series C was designed for easy installation. It is ideal for outdoor entertainment on a patio, pool deck, or other outdoor venues. A detachable crank handle limits screen access protecting the screen surface from the elements. With a broad selection of screen sizes and a headbox engineered to be weather and insect resistant, the Nocturne/Series C is a great choice to elevate an outdoor living space.
The Draper Nocturne outdoor retractable projection screen is available with the Matt White XT1000E or Contrast Grey XH800E surface that are designed to handle whatever mother nature throws at it. Both surfaces are washable and mildew resistant. Both offer accurate colors and sharp picture quality thanks to the smooth non-embossed surfaces. The 180° viewing cone allows for the audience to see a great image no matter where they’re sitting.
This line of retractable cinema screens for watching movies outside allows for several casing color options including black, silver, white and ivory.
Buy at ProjectorScreen.com ($906 – $1,557) in 65-inch to 150-inch screen sizes.
- Splurge: Get the motorized version, Nocturne/Series E from $1,195 – $1,650 at ProjectorScreen.com.
Best Foldable Backyard Screens
Elite Screens Yard Master 2
I used the Elite Yard Master Series for years and think it offers excellent value for the money; the screen material snaps on/off and can be folded up neatly when not in use.
It is weather resistant (minus the wind…long story) and I’ve watched well over 100 movies on it, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the NHL playoffs using both Panasonic and Epson 720p and 1080p projectors.
My only criticism would be the legs; they are not the sturdiest and I’ve had to tie the screen down and use sandbags when left outdoors for more than a week at a time.
The Elite Yard Master 2 is without a doubt the king of backyard cinema screens. Its lightweight aluminum frame allows it to be set up in minutes with no tools required. Simply, unfold the frame; attach the material and legs, then project on the smooth surface. You can assemble it in minutes; attaching the screen is the most time consuming part of the process.
While the surface doesn’t support 4K resolution projection, you can still get a great casual viewing experience for outdoor movie nights with the family.
The Yard Master 2 is the perfect companion for outdoor movie watching with front or rear projection materials available.
$261 at ProjectorScreen.com (120-inch) ›
Best Inflatable Screens
Elite Outdoor Movies Home10
If you want to host a bigger backyard movie night event, an inflatable screen is your best bet. And if you want the best inflatable projector screen the Elite Outdoor Movies Home10 is the way to go.
The Home10 is an inflatable cinema screen for your yard with a 11.5 foot diagonal projection surface that can accommodate up to 30 people spread out on blankets and chairs. The 120 degree viewing cone allows you to maximize the seating in front of the screen.
Don’t be fooled by cheap imitations. If you don’t have a well made blow-up screen, not only will you get poor picture quality, but you’ll also have a loud fan keeping the screen inflated. The Elite Outdoor Movies Home10 features a muffled blower giving you a quiet blow-up projector screen.
The heavy duty material prevents rips, tears and punctures. With thicker than industry standard blower tubes supporting the screen, the Home10 can stay upright against 20+ MPH winds.
The Matte White projection screen is a fiberglass surface for non high-definition projection and environments with controllable ambient light that preserves color as well as black and white images. The screen is washable and mildew resistant. Even if the screen gets muddy, you can easily wash it off.
At a weight of only 12 pounds, the screen rolls up tight for easy storage.
Epic E-SL9 SlimLine
When it comes to projection, bigger is always better. That’s why the Epic Outdoor Cinema E-SL9 SlimLine 123” diagonal is such a popular blow-up projector screen.
The E-SL9 has a 9’x 5’ widescreen picture making it the ultimate backyard projection screen. It’s perfect for pool decks, resort lobbies, and smaller venues for audiences of up to about 100 people.
Of course it’s not just about size. Unlike most inflatable outdoor cinema screens, Epic blow-up screens stay inflated without needing a distracting, noisy air pump running continuously. This high quality cinema screen features triple-reinforced seams that keep the air sealed inside until you’re ready to deflate it.
The SlimLine is capable of withstanding winds of up to 25 mph and features a machine washable surface for easy cleaning.
Whether it’s for your backyard or a small venue the Epic E-SL9 SlimLine is a hard screen to beat.
$2,599 at ProjectorScreen.com (123-inch) ›
- Need bigger? Epic has inflatable screens up to 342-inches!
Best Outdoor Projector Screen Paint
Paint On Screen Drive In Paint
If you’re looking to build a more permanent outdoor projector screen or to build your own little drive-in movie theater, projector screen paint is the way to go. There’s no better choice than Paint On Screen’s Drive In paint.
This outdoor cinema screen paint is extremely durable, able to survive the toughest environments. It stays put through rain, snow, wind, sleet and whatever else mother nature can throw at it. Superior adhesion allows the Drive In paint to be used on any type of screen construction material.
With a 1.8 screen gain rating this backyard projector screen paint allows you to get the most out of your projection system and maximize your guest’s enjoyment. This high gain allows the screen to shine through despite the ambient light you’d typically find with outdoor projection.1 gallon of exterior projector screen paint covers about 170 sq ft. For best results make sure to also use an exterior primer made for outdoor screen paint.
- Best Home Theater Projection Screens (for indoors)