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Outdoor (drive-in-like) theater on my front lawn this Friday night... ideas?  

post #1 of 358
Thread Starter 
Hi all,
I know these outdoor showings have been discussed a lot before, and I have done the searches, but I thought I'd start a new thread to discuss the latest ideas, tips, mistakes, etc. for doing it.

I will be showing Star Wars, I will bring out my GoldMedal popper, will probably hang a HUGE white drop cloth in front of my house and have all the neighbors bring blankets and or chairs for the front yard.

Rear projection won't be possible, so I assume I will need to put the projector at the top of a very sturdy ladder (that I will protect with my life), to avoid keystoning? I know using a ladder seems stupid and way too risky, but how else would I give the projector its needed height? I know I could put it on top of my van out front, but that would still not provide enough height and I don't want the vehicle to block the view of the yard, and show for others in the area. (I know, I know, I could always rent a cherry-picker. :D )

I will also anchor down all cables and powercords and wind them around some stakes before they get to the ladder/projector and will cover the cords with spread out blankets to avoid running kids from launching the pj into space.

I also plan to put the projector in a mosquito netting bag (except for the lens) to keep bugs from trying to get into the vents, etc.

By the way, my projector is the panasonic PT-L500U that I bought at the wonderful ProjectorPoint.com

Basically, I need all of your advice.

post #2 of 358
If you can get 2 similar ladders, put a board between them and put the projector on that - little more stable maybe??

Also - get some tie down straps from your local hardware store - strap the projector down tight to the ladder, zip tie the cables up the side of the ladder and leave an extra coil at the bottom in case somebody does trip over the exposed cables - won't directly pull at the ladder.

Your projector should have keystone correction - so if you aren't exactly level you can fix it...
post #3 of 358
Thread Starter 
Really? After 90 viewings, only one reply?
Thanks ccallana.
post #4 of 358
I'd create a fence area around your projector setup as well.

And get a couple of big ass speakers - don't worry about surround sound - volume is all that will matter.

Have any shorts to warm things up? I'd show something like "The Chub Chubs" and maybe a Pixar short. And I'd plan on a second feature late show - maybe a creature feature.

Oh, and warn all the surrounding neighbors - make sure they attend and don't call the cops!

Have fun!

post #5 of 358
Thread Starter 
Thanks Randy, good advice.
I also plan to play the old intermission ("Let's go out to the lobby", etc.) clips from those drive-in DVDs that we all went wild for a few months ago.
post #6 of 358
If you can get a good size from 10' or so, how about just have the PJ on a cart/table? Your PJ does have options for "table top" setup, right?

Then you won't have to worry about setting up the concertina (barbed) wire around the PJ!

The simpler the setup, the less chance Mr. Murphy will rear his ugly head!

Also, what's the weather forecast?
post #7 of 358
What a great idea! Let us know how it goes. :)

What's the title on the drive-in intermission CD? I need that badly. :)

post #8 of 358
I agree with those suggesting keeping things simple. We do those on our block once a month. The key issue is fun and fellowship, not PQ/SQ quality.

Personally, I wouldn't worry about getting the projector up in the air. If you can't overcome the keystoning with whatever features your projector has, just deal with it. People won't care.

People do care about timing. Star Wars is slightly over 2 hours. Throw in a bunch of shorts and it's a long evening if you've got people with kids coming over. Start as early as you dare, even if it means starting before it gets fully dark (this shouldn't be a problem most places this time of year, but is a big deal in Summer).
post #9 of 358
Thread Starter 
Great advice guys. I appreciate it.

I guess because my projector has always been mounted to my ceiling and requires that the pj lens be 3 inches below the top of the screen, I completely forgot that I would have a "coffee table" option. The machine has never shown an image right-side-up!
Great idea. I'll do that and breathe a little easier.

I plan on attaching hooks along the top edge of the screen/dropcloth and then just hanging the hooks along my gutter across the front of my house.

My friends and neighbors are excited, as we have never done anything like this before.

I will take photographs and post them here at the end of the weekend.

For what its worth, I'm in Minnesota.

Brown, while a few days ago the forecast for Friday was:

now it is:
So things are looking better.

Salmoneous, thanks for the point about timing. I forgot that it was 2 hours long. I figured 1.5 hours. So I think at 7pm I'll start the Intermission reel and then at 7:30 sharp (which is when it gets really dark this time of year) I will begin with my personalized intro to my theater DVD clip and then right after that Star Wars will start.

Keep the lifesaving ideas and information coming. I'm already in better shape than I was, thanks to all of you.

For those who have done this before, which dropcloths, etc. have you found to be the biggest or best and where from (i.e. Home Depot, etc.). Just don't say Lowes, because I don't think we have one here.

Thanks SOOOOOOOOOO much!
post #10 of 358
Use grommets - this way the cloth won't get wrinkled, and the grommets will mean a secure fastener...
Home Depot has some huge dropcloths...
post #11 of 358
to make it really feel like a drive in.....block off the street and have the neighbors park their perpendicular to the street facing your house.....then send out the sound through one of those fm modulator so that can tune in from their car stereo.....

just a thought...
post #12 of 358
Originally posted by Sanman023
to make it really feel like a drive in.....block off the street and have the neighbors park their perpendicular to the street facing your house.....then send out the sound through one of those fm modulator so that can tune in from their car stereo.....

just a thought...
Oooo, the fm modulator idea would be cool. But I think you need some kind of permit from the city before you can block a street.
post #13 of 358
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the ideas everyone.

Well, I bought a huge 12' x 15' white cloth-like dropcloth from Home Depot today and it is a nice size, but there is a big seam across the middle and I know that will look horrrible and be very distracting. Arrrrrgh!

Does anyone have suggestions on other dropcloths or things that would make a great HUGE seamless screen for outside?

Please help. Thanks.
post #14 of 358
Well, for starters you bought a 1.33:1 drop cloth and Star Wars is a 2.40:1 movie. :)
That means almost half of it won't have an image on it.

post #15 of 358
Thread Starter 
Vern, I plan on testing the biggest image and then trimming the excess material off, but that still doesn't change the fact that Luke and Obi Won will have a big horizontal seam through their faces. :(
post #16 of 358
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by Morris Jones
What's the title on the drive-in intermission CD? I need that badly. :)
Here are the 3 Drive-in DVDs from Elite Entertainment. They have very old, cheesy drive-in horror flicks, but also have TONS of the great, old intermission, concessions clips. That's the real reason we all bought them.
Here is a link. I ordered mine via BestBuy.com's site since I couldn't find them at several of my local Best Buy stores.


And here is the thread in which we discussed the DVDs. Read it all the way though, because it starts out with something else:


post #17 of 358
We show a movie every year at our neighborhood block party. The screen is a couple of bedsheets sewn together. The picture is keystoned, there is a seam down the middle, the sound is poor, and everyone has a great time!

Don't sweat the small stuff. No matter how crude you think it is, it'll be the best showing of Star Wars in your neighborhood.

post #18 of 358
What color is the seam? I would probably give the cloth a quick once over with a can of white-ish spray paint. Is Misty Evening availble in a spray can? :D

Good luck with the showing! And as Burke said...don't sweat the small stuff!
post #19 of 358
Make sure you have a flood light installed, so you can flip it on when the movie's over. This way people can safely depart without stumbling over your ladder and speaker wires, etc! Also, think out a contingency "disaster plan". This way if it begins raining, or some other unforseen disaster (high winds?) occurs, you'll know what your first priorities are. But get that flood light on first so people don't get hurt fleeing!
post #20 of 358
Be sure to take pictures tonight! :)

post #21 of 358
And we weren't invited because why?

Who's in charge of the beer is what I want to know (forget the seam).
post #22 of 358
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone.
It starts in less than two hours and I'm running around.
I got the huge 15'x12' screen up and am getting everything else ready.
I'll post pics later this weekend.
post #23 of 358
I guess I am old skool, for the two times we dragged the screen and projector outside for friends we had center, surround and bass. It put the "theater" in it all. (I know it makes it less simple).
post #24 of 358
I know the event is over now but maybe you should check out these sites for screen material.
Maybe they will help out for next time.
Hope this helps. Don't know if these items have seems in them or not.



post #25 of 358

How did it go? You got me motivated. Talked with the neighbor last night and we are going to do one if the weather cooperates. We plan to hang the tarp off his deck.
post #26 of 358
post #27 of 358
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys, it went EXTREMELY well!
We were all amazed. I was so in my happy place all night.
I will post pics tonight or so.
Thanks to all for your tips and also for telling me to not sweat it so much.
post #28 of 358
Were the cops, or news crews called out?
post #29 of 358

Didn't you make reference to some pictures? Ah-Hem.. ;)
post #30 of 358
I went to Mark's screening on Friday and it was a GREAT TIME! I don't want to steal Mark's thunder so I'll let him describe everything for you. What I will say is that Mark did a fabulous job of setting up the equipment, providing food and beverages, chatting with all the guests, etc. etc. etc. He was a busy man!

At the risk of sounding sappy I will say that I especially enjoyed seeing all of the kids watching Star Wars for the first time. In particular, the "...oooooo..." sound that the kids made when the first Lightsaber fired up brought back some memories.

Great job Mark.
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