How to Create Your Own Drive-In Movie Theater at Home

Watch popular flicks from the comfort of your own backyard.

Hosting a movie night for family and friends can be made all the more immersive with a drive-in theater experience. For that, an outdoor shed or garage can be converted into a drive-in theater fairly easily. "All you really need to get going is a projector, speaker, screen, and extension cord, and you're ready to host awesome movie nights at home," says Thumbtack home expert David Steckel. "You can mount the projector in the ceiling and install surround sound speakers, sound baffles on the ceilings and walls, and put down a beautiful epoxy coating on the floor to give it a higher-end look and feel."

Feeling inspired? Here are four steps to building your dream drive-in movie theater.

friends gathered in backyard for movie night
M_a_y_a / Getty Images

Set up the screen.

For power, install an electrical outlet to reach the ceiling mounted projector and for media devices in the back corner of the garage (if using one). In addition, install a retractable movie screen ($299, at the back of the garage to allow the screen to be out of the way while cars are parked.

Install surround sound.

"I recommend a home theater receiver with 5.1 Surround Sound, which will need to be protected in a media cabinet suitable for outdoor use," advises Amanda Tharp, product manager at ShelterLogic, a company specializing in outdoor shade, shelter, and lifestyle products. "All speakers should be small to medium sized and mountable as you don't want speakers on the ground for when cars are parked."

Streaming is key.

Sharp also recommends you include a streaming device for movies such as Apple TV or Roku device for wireless streaming content. You can also use a PlayStation 5 or Xbox, which are perfect for playing Blu-ray movies and gaming on the big screen.

Consider the light and sound requirements.

Consider sound insulating panels for the walls of your garage or shed as your biggest challenge will be the sound bouncing off of the metal walls. "Sound absorbing panels will help cut down on reverberation and echoes," says Tharp. "So that you don't trip or bump into your newly transformed space, install LED light strips ($29.99, along the bottom of the walls for safety as well as LED lights for the ceiling for general lighting."

And if you don't know where to start? "We have a lot of audio-visual experts on the Thumbtack platform that can help you purchase, supply, and install not just a movie screen, but the projector, cables, speakers and anything else you'd need to make your backyard a movie oasis," adds Steckel.

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