Introduction: An Easy, Portable Outdoor Movie Screen
One of our favorite parties involves having friends over to watch a movie on the outdoor screen. With a movie, you can easily tie in themed invitations, food and drink, music and games—but you can also call the neighbors over for impromptu snacks and a screening, and still have a grand old time.
This screen was designed to be low cost (under $40 for everything), easy to make, and portable. The entire thing can be broken down and carried in a yoga or bat bag for transportation to different locations.
Whenever possible, I had cuts made when purchasing. This meant one less step at home and in the case of the pvc pipe, it meant I could get the pieces home in my little Toyota.
Step 1: Determine Your Screen Size
Find the widest outside wall of your house and measure the height and width. I would recommend maximizing both height as well as width, because not all films are shot in wide format. If your screen is only wide, you may end up showing an older square format film on half the available screen space.
The back of our garage is 12' wide and approximately 8' high, so those are the dimensions I started with.
Step 2: Hardware
The screen is suspended between a top and bottom frame made of 1" pvc pipe. I chose to have my pipe cut into 3' lengths in order to be portable and easily stored. You can cut pipe with a hacksaw at home, but most hardware stores will cut the pipe for you for a small fee.
In addition to the pipe for the top and bottom of the screen, you need straight couplings to connect the lengths, caps for the ends, and snap clamps to attach the screen to the bottom piece.
8 X 3' pieces of 1" pvc pipe
6 X 1" pvc pipe couplings
4 X 1" pvc pipe end caps
10 X 1" pvc snap clamps
Hanging hardware includes:
hooks to hang the frame from
cinching straps to wrap around the pvc pipe frame
D-rings (this is belt hardware and can be found in sewing supply stores)
Step 3: Assemble and Test Frame
The pipe is simply pressure fit together. Place a D-ring under each cinch strap and hang from a hook screwed into the eaves. Be sure to test the frame once and mark the straps and pieces for future reference.
Step 4: Screen
The screen material is a 54" wide, rubber-coated blackout shade fabric. I had two 4-yard pieces cut at the fabric store to save the extra step of cutting it at home. There was no charge for this.
Step 5: Flat Fell Seam
Sewing this was actually the most difficult part of the screen, because the shade fabric is slippery and stretchy, and because it's a chore to push huge amounts of cloth through a home sewing machine.
Here are a few tips:
- pin well—the better you pin, the less slippage you'll have when sewing
- use white polyester thread and a size 70 or 80 needle. Be sure your needle is new and sharp—going through this fabric is going to dull it quickly. Discard the needle after the project.
- adjust your stitch tension and foot pressure as necessary.
- sew slowly, watching for slippage in the fabric
- consider running the seams vertically instead of horizontally. A vertical seam has less pressure on it, so you can use a simple straight stitch without any finishing necessary.
Step 6: Make a Casing
Measure the casing by wrapping the top edge of the screen around the coupler (the widest part of the top frame piece). My casing for the 1" pvc was 2-1/2" wide.
Pin and sew a straight stitch, making a tube through which to slip the frame.
Next, lay your top frame piece on top of the casing and snip slots for the D-rings to hang through. These snipped pieces can simply be folded under as shown.
Step 7: Hang Your Screen
The screen is now ready to hang!
Slip the assembled frame through the casing and attach the cinch straps and D-rings through the slots you cut. The easiest way we found to hang the screen was to place it on a table and have two people lift the ends at the same time.
When the top frame is hung, attach the bottom frame to the screen with snap clamps. You may also want to secure the bottom of the screen with weights or ties in case of a sudden breeze.