Outdoor Home Theater by Keith Brown

 An outdoor home theater is like having a drive-in movie theater in your back yard.  Except, you get to choose what is showing!  In 1932, Richard M. Hollingshead experimented with a projector mounted to the roof of his car which projected to a screen mounted between trees in his back yard.  He would open the first drive-in movie theater a year later.  From these humble beginnings, we have fallen in love with watching our favorite movies outdoors.

A lot of changes have taken place since that first experiment.  With technology advancements you can have a great outdoor home theater system to entertain your family, friends and neighbors in the comfort of their own back yard.  Here are a few considerations when deciding to add a back yard move theater.


Probably the first, and most obvious consideration is where to install your outdoor home theater.  You need to ensure that you have the proper room for the screen, projector and seating to have the best experience possible.

Depending on where you live, installing your dream outdoor theater in your driveway or back yard may not be possible.  You need to research noise restrictions, safety regulations, HOA restrictions, etc. to ensure that you will not have any issues in the middle of your favorite movie.  You also want to consider your neighbors.  Will the light and noise from the movie be disruptive to them?  The best way to win their approval, is to invite them to enjoy a movie with you.

Another consideration is light, or the lack of it.  In order to maximize black levels and contrast, the projector needs to be the sole source of light.  Consider where street lights, business signs and lights, and lights from your neighbors’ and your own home may cause problems with the screen or projector.  While there are some screen and projector options available to deal with extra light, they can be hard on the budget.

Permanent or Temporary Installation

While deciding on the location, you will also need to decide if you are going to have a permanent installation or temporary one.  Both types of installations have pro and cons.  A permanent installation doesn’t require as much set up time.  However, if you don’t have a lot of space in the back yard, it may get in the way of other activities.  A temporary installation requires more set up time.  However, it does ensure that the yard or driveway is available for other activities.

Screen and Projector

Your choice of screen is as important as your choice of projector.  Fortunately, the cost of a weather-proof outdoor screen is considerably less than that of a similarly-sized indoor screen.  Screens come in many sizes and options.  You may choose a permanent screen, retractable screen or a blow up option.  Your options will only be limited by space available and budget.

There are several factors when choosing a projector for your outdoor home theater.  While you may be tempted to just opt for the highest resolution possible, you must also consider brightness, especially if budget is a concern.  It’s better to prioritize brightness over resolution when a compromise is necessary.  In addition to resolution and brightness, you also need to consider the projector’s throw distance rating. This will affect where you can place your projector relative to your desired screen size.

Speaker System

The last component to consider is the sound system.  There are many options to choose from.  Again, you will want to consider the size and location of your outdoor home theater.  Be sure that your audio can stand up to the large picture that it is being paired with.  It is best to consider a 2.0 system.  It is cost effective and will get the job done nicely.  Depending on your location, you may need to choose weatherproof speakers, rather than weather-resistant.  Be sure to use full range speakers to get the best sound quality.

These are the basic considerations for an outdoor home theater.  Each location may have specific challenges that need to be addressed.  If you are ready to add a backyard theater to your Dallas area home, but aren’t sure what will work best for you, give Audio Video Innovations a call today at (972) 529-4470.  Our experienced staff can design and install the perfect system to fit your needs and budget.

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