The Timeless Charm of the Drive-In Movie


How to Create Your Own Outdoor Cinema

Summertime is synonymous with my childhood experiences: hours splashing in the pool, sleep away camp, and snow cones, to name a few. A quintessential summer destination that isn't common these days is the drive-in theater, yet many childhood memories are build on this little bit of nostalgia.

The first drive-in theater opened in 1933 in Camden, New Jersey. At the time, films cost 25 cents per person, plus 25 cents per car, and drive-ins usually got movies in the second run, after they'd been shown at the indoor theaters. The trend started off slow, but by the '50s, Americans had fully embraced the outdoor theater experience. The '80s brought a charismatic Michael J. Fox to audiences in "Back to the Future", and shortly after, "The Sandlot" hit the big screen and gave us lines that we'd quote for the next decade ("You're killin' me, Smalls").

As of 2018, USA Today estimated that only about 330 drive-in theaters still exist in the United States. But if you don't have one in your area, there's a way you can enjoy the outdoor movie experience without having to leave your backyard.

Your outdoor cinema starts with a projector. If you don't have one, they are readily available at more big-box stores or Amazon. For playing the movie, you'll need a laptop and streaming service or a DVD or Blu-ray player. You'll connect these devices to your projector through an HDMI port. As long as you're not broadcasting to the whole neighborhood, stereo or computer speakers should be just fine, but you can also opt for a Bluetooth speaker that will give your audio a boost

Next, you'll need a flat surface to display the movie. A plain, white bed sheet makes for a great screen, or you can make your own with white fabric from craft stores online. Cushions, blankets, and outdoor hanging lights add a fun touch to your cinema. Just be sure to turn the lights off before the movie begins - and silence those cell phones!

Once your setup is complete, select your movie, get the popcorn popping, and enjoy some movie magic right in your backyard.