How to build a pop-up garden cinema

If the summer holidays have exhausted all your usual methods of entertaining the kids at home, you might be wondering how to keep them occupied over the coming bank holiday weekend. Enter the back garden pop-up cinema – a fun and budget-friendly family project that will keep children busy during the day and absolutely captivated come sun-down. 

Pass the popcorn

So how do you go about setting up a pop-up cinema in your own back garden? For Emily Pirouet, the expert set designer who created the brilliant home cinema in our video, it’s all about setting the scene. ‘It’s important that everyone is comfortable while they’re watching a film, so think about lots of cushions, outdoor rugs and fairy lights to give your garden a homely feel,’ she tells us.

‘Then why not add a bit of Hollywood glamour with a red carpet and homemade ticket booth? It’s a great project for the kids and adds to the sense of occasion. Make sure you’ve set up your projector and a white sheet to screen the film on – you can tack the sheet to a wall if your garden is particularly windy or peg it to your washing line, weighing it down at the back to keep it as taut as possible. Then all you’ve got to do is choose your film, invite the neighbours round, and have some fun.’

Building your at home cinema
Building a garden cinema in the right location

Pick your location

Wherever you’re setting up your pop-up cinema, make sure that you’ve sectioned off a piece of ground that’s sheltered from the wind and is dry. It’s wise to avoid pitching up an area near street lights or any bright indoor lights, to avoid light disturbance on the screen. Failing that, try hanging a couple of umbrellas to block out any light. Ideally, you need to have a power source nearby, but you can pick up an extension cord for £5.50 at Ikea to give you a few extra metres. 

Get comfy

One of the brilliant things about watching a film at home, rather than at the cinema, is that you can enjoy all your home comforts. We used inexpensive, extra-large bean bags from Amazon, which you can pick up for around £20, and added Primark cushions, from £3 each – there’s no point spending lots of money on something that could get dirty. 

Get comfy in your garden cinema
How to build your garden cinema

Lights, camera, action.

Projectors can be expensive, but the RIF6 cube projector is not only pocket-sized, it’s also comparatively kind on your pocket at £299. If that feels like too big an investment – which it might be if this is something you only want to do occasionally – you can always go for a smartphone projector that you can pick up for as little as £25 from Urban Outfitters. The picture quality won’t be as sharp or bright, but you’ll be able to play clips from your smartphone at a fraction of the cost.

If you’re using a projector you’ll need to connect to a video source, which could be a DVD or Blu-ray player, a laptop, a phone, an iPad or a streaming device, such as Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV, via a HDMI port. If you want great sound, consider hooking up a speaker through your projector.  

Finishing touches

Serve up freshly made popcorn in popcorn holders (£1.59 for eight from Amazon), and add to the ambience by putting battery-powered LED lights in jam jars and dot them around the garden. Then all you need to do is snuggle up and enjoy the film.

How to add the finishing touches to your garden cinema

And while you and your family are making excellent use of your back garden, make sure everything inside is covered for any eventuality by getting the best possible deal on your home insurance.

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