Movie Night at the Cottage

Every year at our cottage, our family holds an outdoor movie night. It is always a fun way to end the summer. I thought I would post some information on our setup, so that others could try it too.

The Screen:

The screen is one of the most important parts of the movie night setup. We have spent years trying out different setups, but this year we have got it almost perfect. Our screen is a 183? 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen that I build. The goal was to make a screen that could be setup quickly with only 2 people. We use 2 16ft aluminum extrusions that are used to be the ledges on a chalkboard. These make up the top and bottom of the screen.

The Aluminum Extrusion

Two 2×4?s are screwed to the aluminum extrusions, which make up the sides of the screen. They also are the legs of the screen. I also screwed two more pieces of aluminum extrusion to the sides of the 2×4?s. These allow the screen fabric to be held on using binder clips. It is important that you carefully measure the width and height of your screen. This will prevent you from having black bars on your screen. To calculate your width and height, you must first decide on an aspect ratio. Common aspect ratios are 4:3, 16:9 and 2.35:1. Your movie should say the aspect ratio on the back of the case. Now you need to figure out what you want the width of your screen to be. I chose to go with 14ft. Now divide this by the larger number in the aspect ratio (for example, 14ft / 2.35 = 5.95ft). This will be your height.

The finished frame

A rope is run through the top extrusion. This is rope is tied between two trees and tightened with a ratchet strap. This holds the screen upright, and prevents the wind from blowing it over.

The ratchet strap

Now that the frame is up, it is time to attach the screen fabric. This is really easy, because the aluminum extrusions allow you to hold it on with binder clips, which are available from any office supply store. If you are unable to get aluminum extrusions, they can easily be substituted with a piece of steel angle (for example, a drywall corner). For our screen fabric, we use two white bedsheets that are sewn together. We have tried other screen surfaces, such as tarps, but the bedsheet has been the best so far. You might notice that one half of our screen is slightly darker that the other. This is not noticeable during the movie.


The Sound:

At our cottage, we do not have electricity. This makes it difficult to get good sound. We use a cheap FM transmitter to send the audio from the movie to our van, which we back up next to the screen. We also put a small portable radio in front of the seating area to help. This system works really well, and does not require electricity.

The Projector:

Since we don’t have electricity, powering a projector is tricky. We use a solar power system, with 2 12v batteries and an 800W inverter. This powers the projector nicely for the length of a movie.


Our family loves our movie night tradition. I hope this information will help you start your own tradition.

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