Here in the Northeast, we have a sadly short season for outdoor entertaining. But instead of bemoaning our lack of under-the-sun fun (well, okay. Maybe we do a little of that, too), we make the most of our warm-weather seasons by hosting lots of al fresco events. Our current favorite? Outdoor movie night.
To create our outdoor movie night setup, we turned to Annie. She broke it all down into the following tips:
1. Start with several smaller indoor/outdoor area rugs—figure on a minimum of one 3’ x 5’ or 4’ x ’6 per couple, or one 6’ x 9’ for a group of four. Not only will the rugs provide protection from the cool ground and any creepy-crawlies, but they create a great foundation or color palette for your outdoor decorations. Bonus: They also make cleanup a snap. Simply roll them up, carry them to the trash or the edge of the woods, shake them off, give them a little scrubbing, and rinse with a hose.
2. Make sure you have enough extension cords. Figure out how many you need for the projector, DVD player or laptop, speakers, and any lights you’ll be using. Then keep two extra nearby, just in case one shorts out or you end up needing an extra few inches to run a line.
3. Offer several comfy seating options. Everyone has their own preferences for what they like to sit on—flat on a blanket or rug with a back support? On a floor pillow or cushion? On a pouf?—so make sure you have a little of each.
4. Get in on the warming trend by providing some cozy throws, just in case the temperature drops quickly once the sun goes down.
5. Light it up. White Christmas bulbs or decorative mini lanterns strung from trees or movie-screen anchors, glass solar stake lights around the perimeter, or paper-lantern pendant lighting over strategic areas (hello, snack table!)—all are good ways to provide just enough light for guests to make their way around, without distracting from the movie.
6. Invest in a good projector and screen. You can also use a white sheet stretched against a wall as your movie screen, but in our experience, it always ends up sagging, wrinkling, or falling off its anchors—not exactly the most relaxing way to kick back.
7. Pick a movie that works well under the stars. For our outdoor movie night, we went with the eye-candy-rich The Grand Budapest Hotel. But you could also choose a classic summer flick like American Graffiti, Grease, or Beach Blanket Bingo. Tie the movie into your decorating palette, or ask guests to wear an item of clothing or an accessory that reflects the theme.
8. Snack stylishly. Put a twist on movie-theater favorites by arranging candy on a pretty tray, and popcorn in a big bowl or basket that can be scooped into lunch-size paper bags and shaken up with melted butter or olive oil and custom flavorings. Top containers of flavorings with colorful labels for easy ID. For our movie night, we went with three sweet and two savory blends. Scroll to the end of the post for the recipes.
9. Forgo the blocky, ugly cooler and pick up an inexpensive galvanized steel or painted tub for drinks. Fill it with ice and glass bottles of soda, beer, and water for an adults-only viewing, or trade the glass for plastic and the beer for juice if you’re hosting a kids’ movie night.
10. Add table linens, balloons, streamers, or any other decorations in the same palette as your rugs, pillows, and poufs, and keep the large-scale patterns to a minimum. Not only will it prevent the decor from going over the top, but it will be less distracting as the lights dim and bold patterns begin to stand out.
Tasty Popcorn Toppings
Garlic, Olive Oil, and Cayenne Combine 2 parts garlic powder to ½ part cayenne and shake to mix. Drizzle warm olive oil over the popcorn, and top with the garlic and cayenne mixture just before serving.
Thyme, Sea Salt, Pepper, and Asiago Combine equal parts thyme and freshly ground sea salt. Add black pepper to taste. Drizzle warm olive oil over the popcorn, and sprinkle the thyme mixture and finely grated Asiago cheese on top.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Combine 1 part cocoa powder to 2 parts granulated sugar. Mix in ground cinnamon until you can taste its zesty flavor, but it doesn’t overwhelm the sweet chocolate. Drizzle warm olive oil or butter over the popcorn, and generously sprinkle the chocolate mixture on top.
Sweet Orange Ginger Combine 2 parts light brown sugar to ½ part ground ginger and ½ part orange extract (by caroline). Add the zest of a fresh orange, 1 teaspoon at a time, to taste, until you strike the ideal balance of sweetness with the gingery zing. The mixture will be clumpy, so drizzle warm olive oil over the popcorn, spoon the mixture on top, and mix well.
S’mores Combine equal parts finely crushed graham crackers and mini chocolate chips; add cinnamon to taste. Serve with mini marshmallows on the side. Drizzle warm butter over the popcorn and generously sprinkle with the s’mores mixture, then add a handful of mini marshmallows and mix well.
Love the look of Annie’s outdoor movie night? Get it at home:
Diamond Canary Indoor/Outdoor Rug
Happy Yellow Stripe Indoor/Outdoor Rug
Chevron Apple/White Indoor/Outdoor Rug
Samode Fucshia and Sprout Indoor/Outdoor Rugs
Trimaran Stripe Fuchsia, Sprout, Platinum Poufs
Trimaran Stripe Tangerine and Pink WOUFs
Trimaran Stripe Daffodil/White Indoor/Outdoor Pillow
Chevron Tangerine/White Indoor/Outdoor Pillow
Flora Crewel Tangerine and Fuchsia Indoor/Outdoor Pillows
Bubbles Apples/Fuchsia Indoor/Outdoor Pillow
Trumpet Turquoise/Tangerine Indoor/Outdoor Pillow
Mingled Tangerine Indoor/Outdoor Pillow
Nautilus Fuchsia Indoor/Outdoor Pillow
Cassia Daffodil/Blue Indoor/Outdoor Pillow
Admiral Tangerine Indoor/Outdoor Pillow
Paisley Lace Orange and Azalea Throws
Laundered Linen Citrus Throw
Mingled Tangerine and Fucshia Placemats
Chevron Fuchsia and Tangerine Napkins
Encaustic Fuchsia/Orange Napkins
Solid Herringbone Tangerine Napkins