Can you build a cheap backyard theater?

Two years ago I had the opportunity to examine an outdoor picture kit out of Open Air Cinema. It was pretty cool, mixing an HD projector, inflatable screen, audio system, along with other equipment — but at the hefty cost of about $5,500.

I believe for that kind of cash; I ought to be able to have celebrities to come to my backyard and play live.

Luckily, it’s possible to build your very own open-air cinema for a whole lot less.

The Outdoor Projector

Optoma HD20

The projector at $699.99, the high-def Optoma HD20 is an exceptional budget projector for garden theatre.

Arguably the most critical component, and undoubtedly the most expensive, is your projector. You want one that is as bright as you can (so you may begin your screenings at dusk rather than dark), and I would say it is crazy to not proceed with a 1080p version. (The larger the display, the higher people pixels count.)

Projector prices fluctuate tremendously and often range into the tens of thousands. However, total diet as budget selections go, it is almost impossible to win against the Optoma HD20. It is now available on Amazon for $699.99 shipped and has an average user rating of 4.3 celebrities. It is not exactly what I’d call mega-bright, but it is smart — and the cost is difficult to beat if you don’t go refurbished or used.

If this projector doesn’t meet your standards or taste, go over to our homepage for the best outdoor projectors reviewed.

The BluRay Player

This one’s simple: Any Blu-ray player is going to do. I often see refurbished versions selling for $40-$50. If you are considering streaming content in the likes of Netflix or Amazon, obviously you will need a version with built-in programs and Wi-Fi — however, remember that your router’s Wi-Fi signal likely will not be high in your garden. Do a little field-testing until you invite the neighbors over.

The display

An inflatable display is a great asset, but it also needs continuous electricity, and the mill makes noise.

If it comes to the display, you have a few choices. If you are into speed and ease, Amazon has a Gemmy Airblown inflatable movie screen for $210. It includes all you will need: a blower, tethers, stakes, along with a storage bag.

Too expensive? Too dumb? (This blower will undoubtedly make you crank the speakers a bit louder) Break out your resources and build your very own outdoor movie screen, such as this one explained over at Instructables. It will cost you no more than about $40 in components — and it will not drown out the film.

The cheapest option by far would be to hang out a king-size bedsheet (either white or light grey) on, say, both sides of your home or your garage door. I have done that, and it works just dandy.

The audio system

Now for the tricky part. For film sound, the above Open Air Cinema kit combined with a Rolls MX122 MiniMix Pro audio mixer (available individually online for approximately $100) using a set of Behringer Eurolive B208D speakers (roughly $180 apiece). If you have got the space in the budget, then I can not recommend this combo highly sufficient; the audio quality has been phenomenal (and loudly).

On the flip side, in case you’ve got an older stereo lying about, you might probably set its recipient together with the Kinect participant (or projector), then join any speakers that are available — although you may have to spring for more speaker cables so that you can place them near the display. Hit up a couple of garage sales, and you may find serviceable audio equipment for next to nothing.

I am no expert when it comes to the sound stuff, so if you have some better ideas, I am (sorry) all ears.

One last thing

Make certain that you’ve got loads of additional long extension cords available (you ought to power three or more items if maybe four or five). Also, have a flashlight or 2 handy, so it’s possible to discover the pause button in the dark and just take down all of the gear once the picture’s over.

Finally, for not much more than the purchase price of a projector, you can cobble together a reasonably good backyard picture theater. And if you are eager to spend closer to $1,400, you can build your kit for a fraction of the purchase price of a commercial one. Now you only have to invite the neighbors, pop some popcorn, and revel in some theatre under the stars.

What is your best movie select for open-air seeing? If you would like something family-friendly, look no farther than “Iron Man.”