If you’ve got a gazebo, you’re the proud owner of a versatile space that can serve as a setting for any number of activities spanning every season. It can be the perfect place for a family barbecue, a nook where you can curl up with a good book, a terrific birthday party venue, or a place to enjoy the quiet splendor of nature. Why can’t it also be a place for you and your friends to enjoy a blockbuster film in a unique outdoor setting?
Setting the “screen”
Showing the movie inside a large gazebo gives you the option of using a movie-sized flat screen—the wider the better. Seriously, don’t expect your guests to watch a regular-sized TV and consider that a cinematic experience.
Outdoor movie screens placed just outside the gazebo can do the trick well. These come in a variety of types and sizes, including manual pull-down and/or portable folding screens. If you opt for the former, place it against a fence or wall so the bottom of the screen doesn’t wiggle in the wind.
Movie showers on a budget can make their own movie screens—a wall coated with white semi-reflective paint, a white sheet backed with dark fabric to improve picture quality, or a white vinyl tarp. Here’s a handy hint: Homemade fabric screens tend to be more stable when attached to a frame, either wood or PVC, which can be easily mounted inside or near your pergola or gazebo.
A roomy outdoor structure with built-in power can become a self-contained theater in no time at all. You can mount a suitably sized screen between posts under the roof or the beams of the pergola. Just make sure it’s not so high your guests will have to crane their necks, but high enough so everyone can see. Add seating in a semi-circle using chairs, benches, oversized cushions—or, if you want to offer versatile comfort—all-weather bean-bag chairs.
Got a small, unwired gazebo? No problem! Set up your screen a few yards outside the door and tuck moviegoers inside the structure. You’ll have to provide electric power via an extension cord, but be sure it’s rated for outdoor use.
While you’re situating the screen, take a moment to check on ambient lighting. House lights, headlights, and street lights bouncing off the screen will bleach the video and make it hard to see.
Since you’ll probably be showing your movie at night, you’ll want to make sure your guests are protected from mosquitoes and other pests. Gazebo curtains can help, as can citronella candles, insect repellant, and scent sticks. Strategically placed fans will keep everyone cool and comfortable. Inspect the area for insects, especially the creepy crawly kinds that might be attracted to food. Blankets can also do double duty as a barrier and as a temperature comfort—even in traditionally warmer months—for those who get cold quickly.
Line up your projector
Chances are, you’ll run the movie through your laptop, either via live streaming or a DVD, or your DVD player. Fortunately, transferring the picture from technology to screen is easy, thanks to the multitude of inexpensive LED projectors on the market. Hook your player of choice up with one of those projectors and a couple of computer speakers to bump up the sound, and you’re ready to roll! Random projectionist’s tip: Control the size of the picture by moving your projector closer to, or farther away from, the screen and adjusting the focus according to the instructions. If you’re truly going “old school” (and even if you aren’t, truthfully) you’ll want to make sure the projector is stable and safe from the elements—and can’t be splashed or knocked into any water that might be nearby.
Pop the corn
Make your gazebo cinema complete by offering refreshments. Set up a table either inside or nearby, so nobody has to miss part of the action because they had to run into the house to satisfy the movie munchies. You can go all out and rent a popcorn machine, pre-pop in the house before the show starts, or pop the corn over a fire pit a few minutes before air time. Cold drinks and a selection of movie theater-type sweets are bound to be appreciated by your patrons, young and old. There’s something about the smell and taste of freshly popped popcorn that has been ingrained into our “movie watching DNA” over the years and smell can go a long way to adding to the atmosphere!