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How to host an outdoor movie night: Everything you need

Movie night at back yard
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Summer 2021 is almost upon us. The nights are getting warmer, and our outdoor spaces look increasingly inviting. And this year, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, more blockbuster movies are headed directly to streaming than ever before. Flicks such as "In the Heights," "Space Jam: A New Legacy" and "A Quiet Place Part II" will all arrive via streaming in late spring and early summer.

This is the perfect recipe for an outdoor movie night. Here's all the highly rated gear you need to turn your outdoor space into a cozy and functional space for movie night. First, you'll need a projector...

Epson Home Cinema projector

Epson via Amazon

This 1080p projector easily connects to your favorite laptop or connected device with an HDMI cable. It's bright (3,300 lumens) and has terrific color integrity for the price point. It also has an automatic picture-skew sensor that will attempt to correct image keystoning. This projector does also have a built-in speaker, but for a real movie-theater experience, consider dedicated external audio (more on that later).

GT Getco Tech foldable projector screen with stand

Getco Tech via Amazon

No movie night would be complete without a big, 16:9 screen. This foldable option is 150 inches wide and comes with a carrying case to easily store the movie screen and stand. It also comes with a set of tethers and lawn stakes, so that your movie won't be blown away on a breeze.

OontZ Angle 3 speaker

OontZ via Amazon

Remember when we mentioned a dedicated speaker? This portable wedge speaker has the flexibility to handle any sound system. First, it's a compact model that is still plenty loud to hear over the whir of the projector fan. Second, it has a long battery life, so you can listen to more than one movie without an extra power cable. Perhaps most importantly, it has a 3.5 mm auxiliary input; if you're a stickler for flawless audio-video sync, you won't have to rely on sometimes-laggy wireless connections. This speaker is also Bluetooth compatible, so it will come in handy when you're playing music at your next barbecue.

Hodo large picnic blanket

Hodo via Amazon

Of course, you'll want to provide some lawn seating — in the form of a waterproof picnic blanket — for guests who prefer to spread out while they watch a movie. This blanket comes in literally dozens of colors. It's a 79-inch square, with a handle attached for easy transport when folded.

Sportneer folding camping chairs

Sportneer via Amazon

For those who prefer loftier seating, this set of two folding camping chairs provides a good place to relax. Each heavy-duty aluminum chair — one seat can handle up to 350 pounds — is designed to fold into an ultra-compact carrying case that won't fill up your closet or garage. And each chair weighs only two pounds.

West Bend hot oil theater-style popcorn popper

West Bend via Amazon

No backyard movie night would be complete without handfuls of hot, fresh popcorn. Just add your favorite kernels and oil to this theater-style popper, and in a few short minutes you'll have about a gallon of fluffy white popcorn -- up to four quarts of it. That's five to six servings. A stirring rod ensures that more kernels turn into popcorn, instead of lying dormant on the bottom of the popper.

Kedudes striped popcorn boxes

Kedudes via Amazon

No need to crowd around a single popcorn bowl. After the popper is finished, pour a scoop of the snack into one of these old-school, flat-bottom popcorn boxes. This lot comes with 20 single-use boxes.

Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fish

Sour Patch Kids via Amazon

You'll also want some gummy candies to fill out your backyard concession stand. This variety pack includes six bags each of original Sour Patch Kids, Mini Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Watermelon. 

Yeti Roadie 24 cooler

Yeti via Amazon

After all those movie theater snacks, guests might get thirsty. This sturdy Yeti cooler, which comes in eight colors, holds an estimated 18 12-ounce cans (with 24 pounds of ice). The inner compartment is also tall enough to chill a bottle of wine standing upright.

Arbrac dimmable outdoor globe lights

Arbrac via Amazon

Now that we have the food and beverages squared away, it's time to create the mood. Fifty feet of plug-in string lights should do the trick, plus a free, 6-foot extension cord. This string of LED lights comes with four spare bulbs, and can be dimmed with the appropriate dimmer (not included). 

Cutter insect-repelling candle

Cutter via Amazon

Unexpected guests — of the buzzing and biting variety — can ruin an outdoor summer event. So, light some citronella candles to keep the bugs away. Cutter recommends placing several of these 20-ounce candles around your outdoor space (at least 18 inches apart) to maximize the protective effect. Each candle burns for up to 40 hours.

SmallRT extension cord power strip

SMALLRT via Amazon

Once you're ready to plug everything in, run this 16-plus-foot extension cord to its companion power strip from a nearby outlet to your chosen projector spot. This highly rated surge protector boasts eight AC outlets and four USB charging ports--plenty of power for your movie setup--plus an overload safety switch.

Ultra-HD HDMI cable

Capshi via Amazon

This high-speed HDMI cable will deliver crystal-clear picture from your laptop or device into the projector. And the 6.6-foot cable gives you just the right amount of wiggle room to comfortably assemble your rig.

3.5mm stereo audio cable

Zerist via Amazon

Last, but certainly not least, if you're streaming the movie from a laptop or other device that has a 3.5mm audio jack, you'll want to connect to the speaker directly. This will prevent your audio from falling out of sync with the video from the projector.

Now sit back, relax, and enjoy your favorite movies under the stars.

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