Drive-in movie theaters have long been an old-school staple of spring and summer, but you’ll probably have to burn through an entire tank of gas just to find one that’s still operating. Plan B: Recreate the classic outdoor big screen experience in your own backyard.
Here’s everything you need to throw a legendary Netflix night under the stars.
The key to picking the perfect outdoor player is finding a rig with the right brightness specs. Look for a projector with at least 2,000 lumens—the unit that measures how much light a source emits. You’ll also need a device with HD resolution and HDMI connectivity. It’s up to you how much dough you want to blow; a solid rig like the Optoma HD142X presents a killer picture at a relatively low price ($499, amazon.com), but if you want to make a summer splurge, drop another grand on Epson’s PowerLite Home Cinema 1440 ($1,499, epson.com). Packing 4,400 lumens of both color and white brightness, this 1080P, 3LCD projector boasts images so crisp and stunning, you’ll never want to visit the multiplex again.
Your friends will never forgive you if you go all out on blockbuster visuals, but skimp on the sound. Fortunately, you don’t need to scatter your yard with messy wires to set up a system that roars. Instead, pair your projector with a powerful Bluetooth speaker—we love the gigantic, beefy sound of the (water-resistant!) Braven XXL ($349, amazon.com)—and a cheap Bluetooth transmitter like this model from TaoTronics ($28, amazon.com). Position the speaker in front of your audience, and melt their friggin’ faces off. Just be sure to slip an apology note under your neighbor’s door tomorrow.
You could always hang a white bed sheet between two trees—the picture will be surprisingly clear, as long as you iron out the wrinkles—but where’s the fun in that? Instead, go big: Buy this 14-foot airblown, inflatable movie screen ($248, amazon.com) and run the coolest drive-in joint in town.
Ditch the old folding chairs collecting dust in your garage and upgrade to something more comfortable. Snag a King Kong camping chair—or six—from ALPS Mountaineering ($54, amazon.com), one of the most durable (it holds up to 800 pounds!) and luxuriously padded chairs we’ve ever plopped our keisters in. And of course it’s got dual cup holders. Which brings us to …
It never hurts to have a cooler full of cold brews handy during your double feature. But if you really want to throw a movie night your buddies will never forget—or, let’s face it, remember—you need to step up your cocktail game, too. Try this Jagermule Punch, created by Flinn Pomeroy of Sweetwater Social in New York City. (Warning: You might need to set up a tent for people to crash after the credits roll.)
• 125 oz Jägermeister
• 42.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
• .37.5 oz Ginger Syrup
• 35 oz Bigelow Orange & Spice Tea
• 60 oz Soda Water (add to taste)
• 2 whole oranges sliced into very thin discs
Combine Jägermeister, Lime Juice, and Ginger Syrup to punch bowl. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add 5 tea bags of Bigelow Orange & Spice. Remove water from heat and allow to steep for 6 minutes (You will have more tea brewed than you are actually going to use.) Add 35oz of Bigelow Orange and Spice tea to the punch bowl. Stir punch vigorously. Add soda to taste. Top entire punch with sliced orange discs. Serve over ice in traditional Mule Tins or in another receptacle of your choosing.
No moviegoing experience is complete without popcorn. But your party calls for classier kernels. Serve this Negroni Caramel Popcorn from Chef Staffan Terje at Perbacco in San Francisco.
Negroni Caramel Popcorn
• 8 cups popcorn, popped
• 2 tablespoons gin salt* (recipe below)
• 1 cup sugar
• 4 teaspoons corn syrup
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 1 cup water
• ½ cup vermouth
• 1 ounce butter
• 1 cup Campari
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 orange, zested
Cook salt, sugar, water, corn syrup, honey, butter, Campari, vermouth and orange zest until golden brown. Add baking soda and toss with popcorn. Pour out onto a greased parchment-lined sheet pan. Spread out into a thin layer, tossing until cooled. Once cooled, store in an airtight container.