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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all,

First off, hope everyone is healthy and doing well during this time. I am on a committee for a city project to set up a large drive in movie theater for the community. We have a limited budget, and we have a large parking lot to use, so we are researching potential cost effective solutions. This forum has been *incredibly* helpful, so thank you. We were hoping to see if you could provide any guidance or thoughts on our potential solution.

Situation:Ideally we would like to project on a large screen at a 16:9 ratio (close to 40ft+ in width) in a large outdoor parking lot. We are not overly interested in an overly high quality viewing - but, it should definitely be at least enjoyable to watch on. We are not going for a professional grade, hi-fi experience. The screen would be left outside during screenings, but, we could always roll it out if need be.

Proposed Solution
  1. Screen Material: Purchase a large white heavy duty poly tarp.
  2. Screen Finishing: In order to make sure the screen is not too glossy, we would then paint the tarp with this acrylic waterborne interior enamel. Specifically, ProClassic Waterborne Interior Acrylic Enamel from Sherwin-Williams.
Feedback:If you have any thoughts on whether this would work, please do let us know. Feel free to share any alternatives or tweaks as well if you like.

Thank you again ahead of time. This project truly will help our community during this period, so we appreciate any guidance you could provide. :)

DIY Granddad (w/help)
23,796 Posts
This sort of project is more in keeping with the constructs of a Professional Company...not the DIY dictates this Forum provides. Just the logistics involved in the construction of a "solid" Framework Backing will make the project go beyond anything someone/somebodies can accomplish, let alone the application of the material

Just by what you've already provided it's clear that you have an idea of what you want to do, but little to no concept of what will be / is required. Your already going down the wrongish road of materials and type of coating. I don't really think you have a handle on the Projector requirements and subsequent cost, unless the Budget Limitations you mention at least accommodate 12,000 lumen....minimally.

Also...it seems everyone with such an idea states "We are not overly interested in an overly high quality viewing" but fails to realize that anything that falls below exactly what is minimally required with get abjectly dismal performance....and if it is a Community Theater....that should not even be a remote consideration. Anyone who deigns to give advice is duty-bound to tell it like it is...not just as you might like to hea it.

Basically there is still a lack of needed information...and the specifics (Actual Budget - Projector/s to be considered and their location- "Required" Screen Infrastructure -Expected Content -Time of viewing and Light considerations). Planning for a 40' wide Screen of any type requires careful planning and consideration. It is not a project that can be rushed into...unless those doing the rushing have plenty of experience...and even then there will be and are specific guidelines and requirements that cannot be fudged on let alone overlooked.

At this juncture I cannot offer anymore than a promise that such a project is do-able. As to if the reality will match up to what is possible....that must be determined by careful consideration of every aspect involved. Realistic size expectations.....Use of the Correct Materials....needed Breakdown Portability. And the realization that to attempt such on too austere a Budget and/or use the wrong approach as far as the materials / equipment can and almost assuredly render the effort a waste of time and funds.

Someone has to be responsible for not allowing that....and willing to be responsible should that not be the case.

So now, after all the Gloom and Doom...if you wish to tap the human resources available, there is still much left to reveal and absorb.

  • What will the actual use of the screen entail. Recently released Movies...Sport Programming...Classic Films...etc.
  • At 40' wide, if the Format is desired to be 16:9 that would make the Screen fully 22' high. That is impractical. Approx. 30' x 17'
  • If a 2.39:1 Formatted surface is chose, Screen height becomes almost 17' high (...16:9 Content is still 16' 9" x 29' 7' )
  • The Material used is itself Flexible / Stretchable and has the ability to resist Creasing when stored, (When folded length ways once and Rolled up onto a 9' x 24" diameter Cylinder) ,
  • It should be serviceable as a Projection surface "AS IS" . The Coating your considering is unsuitable for any repeated Exterior use, and just one unexpected wetting would effectively ruin it.
  • Gain requirements demand that for even obtaining the barest minimum of reflected brightness, 12,000 lumen output is absolutely required. Is such a single or dual PJ set-up Within your budget?
  • The size of your desired image requires a special type Lens if the Throw distance and projector positioning is not to be counterproductive to the intended use. Again...budget?
  • Frame construction / Materials and Safety considerations. You cannot have a poorly supported 40' x 22' "Sail". Such Screens invariably are set "against and on top of a solid backing...like a Billboard.
I constructed such a 40' x 22' "Drive In" Screen back in 2003, however it was made of Treated Plywood Panels on a well supported Framework of 2x4s that in turn bridged 4 - 36' high Telephone Poles The Panels were painted with a specially derived paint that was extremely durable...but still had to be re-coated each year. As such it because too involved and costly to maintain...and a High wind risk deemed to be too much of a liability. A telling aspect of that all was that the desire to create a Drive In screen for 20% of the cost of a actual Screen designed for that purpose wound up being just as costly an expense after 3 years use...and then was dismantled for safety reasons.

So let's look carefully at your real and actual needs, the available budget, and the ability for City / Community to come together on an effective and durable design. One does exist, and it can be done at a reasonable cost...but for no less than, and in a manner that is what is exactly required.
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