The Perfect Drive-in Movie in Your Backyard – Guest Post by Whitney Hollingshead

Going to a drive-in movie during the summer was a classic American pastime for previous generations. Unfortunately, very few drive-in movie theaters are still in operation today. With some simple planning and ingenuity, you can pull off a drive-in movie this summer that will be the highlight of the summer for all of the children in your neighborhood!

 The Invites

One of the best aspects of planning a drive-in movie is that you can make the invited crowd as large as you like. If you don’t want to exclude a lot of children, this is the perfect activity to include everyone. You can easily keep the costs low and have space for several children. On the other hand, if you want to put on a drive-in movie for just a handful of kids, this idea works great for small groups as well!
Here is the important information to include on the invitation:

  • State that this will be a drive-in movie
  • List the date
  • List the time (Unfortunately the sun does not go down until after the bedtime of most children. This makes it difficult to pull off an evening movie. Also, if you do not want to feed dinner to all of the children, be sure to keep this in mind when setting the time. The afternoon is a great time to hold an outdoor movie for children, especially if you have shaded areas in your yard.)
  • Clearly state that each child needs to bring a handmade “car” to drive into the movie.

For invitation design, consider using a movie ticket as inspiration. Or you could even include traditional admission tickets with the invitation.

The Cars

Each car can be made out of cardboard or even poster board. If you have access to appliance boxes from a furniture or electronics store, these large rectangular boxes are a great starting point for creating a car. Consider a square box shape with an open bottom that your child can comfortably sit on the grass inside of at the movie. Your child will also need to easily see over the frame.

Make sure you oversee the making of the car. You may have to use a box cutter blade or other sharp tools to make the car and these tools should not be used by children. Once the shape of the car is completed, let your child go wild with designing the car. Your child can paint the outside or even glue on anything they desire to make the car their own.

Creating a car is a great time to learn with your child. To get your creative juices flowing for the perfect car design, check out an automotive website like RC Automotive and let your child look at the pictures of various cars. You can also point out how cars are different from each while travelling around doing everyday errands.

The Set Up

In order to pull off the perfect drive-in movie outdoors, you will need to have a laptop, a projector, speakers, a screen, and some extension cords. Here are some tips for each requirement:

  • Laptop – If your family does not have access to a laptop, ask around until you find someone who will allow you to borrow one. Odds are that a parent of a child invited will have a laptop. A DVD or blu ray player might also connect to the projector.
  • Consider co-planning the event with other parents to pool resources.
  • Projector – Again this is another item you can most likely borrow from someone you know. If you have a projector available at work, you may even be able to borrow it for a day. Ask your boss about this option. You may also be able to rent a projector in your area.
  • Speakers – If the projector does not have speakers, you will need to track down speakers to use as well. Home speakers or powerful computer speakers may provide enough sound. Make sure you test everything out well in advance of the movie start time.
  • Screen – If you don’t have access to a projection screen, hang a bedsheet or painter’s tarp on the side or your home or garage.
  • Extension Cords – Having an extension cord that will reach from a power source to the laptop, projector, and speakers is a necessity. Make sure the cord is placed safely so that your guests won’t trip over the cord.
The Movie

When hosting any movie event for children, make sure the movie chosen is age and content appropriate. Here are a few suggestions to get you thinking:

  • Disney’s Cars or Cars 2
  • The Sandlot (better for older children)
  • The Adventures of Milo & Otis
  • Babe
  • Finding Nemo
  • Madeline
  • Angel’s in the Outfield
  • Monster’s Inc. or Monster’s University
The Treats

One of the best parts of going to a movie is getting movie treats. You can use classic theater treats as the inspiration for your treats. If you are ambitious, you can add a fun twist or your own personal touch:

Traditional: Popcorn
Fun Twist: Multi-colored or flavored popcorn
Traditional: Nachos
Fun Twist: Various chips or pretzels and dips
Traditional: Soda pop
Fun Twist: Mini soda cans or bottles with fun straws
Traditional: Boxed candy
Fun Twist: Make individual candy bags with a variety inside
Traditional: Junk foods
Fun Twist: Cut up fruit/veggies, yogurt parfaits, juice bars

Follow this outline to pull off the perfect drive-in movie event for your kids this summer. With careful planning and the help of technology, you will create an event that’s certain to become a new summer tradition.

Thanks Whitney for this great post!  I am super excited to do this with my kids this summer!


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