DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

Show Thyme: How to Build an Outdoor Theater in Your Garden

PHOTOS AND DIY BY RYAN BENOIT

Movie night under the stars — in our own garden — is one of our favorite luxuries. The tips of our rosemary hedge or an aloe on the succulent table might poke shadows along the bottom of the screen…but that only adds to the cozy theater feel.

Frame

The modern frame that supports and encloses our pull-down screen was designed and built by Ryan back in 2011, a little while before we started blogging. (Our reasoning: an outdoor living room wouldn’t really be a living room without a TV.) He built it under our tangerine and orange trees, and since then, we’ve watched concerts, feature films, documentaries and old episodes of Beat-Club featuring Chuck Berry in our yard after dark.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

We normally keep the screen retracted during the day, giving us a better view of our elkhorn fern collection.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

Ryan’s often found on the hammock watching Sunday Night Football.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

Here’s a snap from a Grateful Dead concert live-streamed from New York last year.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

Sound

We also used the outdoor theater while hosting a Super Bowl party, which became controversial in the comments section of Apartment Therapy; we’re also sensitive to the noise issue and we swear we haven’t had any complaints from neighbors, thanks to generous-enough margins around our properties. Keeping the volume at a reasonable level and inviting our neighbors to the parties in question has also helped. Also, wireless headphones are essential! We use them whenever we watch movies.

Projector

As far as logistics go, we bring our programs to the big screen using an HD projector, which we normally keep indoors where we have another screen and a ceiling mount. To bring the video signal outside we use an HDMI matrix and connect the projector to another set of installed HDMI and power cables, a setup that takes less than five minutes. We use an RCA audio switch to direct sound either to the outdoor amplifier connected to weatherproof outdoor speakers or to the headphone feed. Stay tuned for a future post on how to bring sound to your garden.

Arbor

Last summer, we added a trellis to the top of the screen because our Costa Rican butterfly vine (Dalechampia dioscoreifolia, also bow-tie vine) needed more space to spread. Today, the curtain of leaves and flowers and the citrus trees arching overhead create a certain effect — that you’re watching a great story unfold somewhere just as wild. A garden theater.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

November 2015.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

We normally keep the screen retracted in the arbor enclosure.

Our garden tour isn’t complete without the crowd-pleasing demo of our pull-down screen.

Want to make your own? Here’s the DIY, complete with sketches we made on the amazing 3-D program SketchUp. Since we first built our theater five years ago without the trellis top, these instructions are slightly different from—and better than—how we built our own.

If you decide to take on this project, let us know if you have any questions in the comments! And hey, maybe invite us over for a screening…

—TH

DIY Outdoor Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

Front view of the completed assembly with components labeled.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

The view from behind the screen. We hide our garden’s irrigation system behind the lower frame. See photos at the end of this post.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

We used all pressure treated lumber and painted the entire assembly afterward to assure longevity. Redwood and cedar are also good choices because they are naturally rot resistant.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

Here are the tools you’ll need.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

It’s best to purchase your screen before getting started as you’ll need to know the spacing for the hooks. We recommend this screen.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

Front view.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

Rear view.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

Rear view.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

Construct the screen enclosure which will later be mounted at the top of the posts.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

These holes are the attachments points for the screen enclosure.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

Front view.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

Rear view.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

 

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

 

Raised Garden Beds - The Horticult - Ryan Benoit Design

We hide our garden’s irrigation system behind the lower frame boards.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

Breezy day? Screw in a couple of eyehooks to the ledge and tie down the screen.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

November 2014.

DIY Outdoor Movie Theater

December 2015.