Introduction: Social Distancing DIY Drive in Movie

It was weekend three of social distancing for us and we needed a way to be with our family and friends without actually being with them. I was inspired by the idea of Netflix Party and out of that grew our very own drive in movie theater. This way everyone could stay safely socially distanced in their cars and still all enjoy a movie together. It was a welcome distraction, a crowd pleaser for ages 10- 77.


- 1 all purpose tarp with grommets, preferably 12 x 16 feet

- White house paint

- Roller and paint tray

- Laptop with an HDMI port

- Bluetooth speakers or Netflix Party capabilities

- Projector

- 20 feet of rope (depends on width of your screen)

- extension cord

- Thin chair

- 4 weighted objects to hold down tarp while painting (we used fire wood)

- Ladder (we used our 16 ft ladder)

Step 1: Step 1: USE WHAT YOU HAVE

When brainstorming materials it became evident we did not have enough big white sheets to make a large enough screen, nor did I want to spend a day sewing them together or ripping them apart after. So I though of the things we did have starting by size. Eventually we landed on one of our old multi-purpose tarps. Ours was 12x16 but you could play around with sizing for what works with your space and crowd. Obviously these tarps are all blue, and that would not give the best tint while projecting. So we took just old white house paint, a roller and paint tray and laid the tarp out in the driveway. We secured the tarp at each corner with a heavy chunk of firewood so we could roll the paint on. At first it looked like it might be too thin but one coat of white house paint did the trick. This overall created a better screen than a sheet would have because the paint made the tarp a bit stiff so you don't get those awkward drapes that distort the image.

Step 2: Step 2: Hanging It Up

After the tarp dried we scouted the best location to hang our new "screen". The best thing to look for is a bit of a hill so its easier for a lot of people to see all at once. If you have existing yard structures, like a swing set, this is a great place to start because you most likely can use that as a base. We used spaced out trees that hold up an old swing set. This is where the rope, ladder and the grommets come into play. We used the ladder and started with the left top corner, using a Anchor Hitch knot to secure the tarp to the tree with the rope. I included a link to a video on how to make the knot. Do this to the right top corner through the grommet and follow with the bottom two corners. Its easier to do this with two people so one can help adjust the height by getting the perspective of the movie watcher.

Step 3: Step 3: Setting Up the Projector

We have an Epson brand projector that needs to connect to the video source through an HDMI cord, this can differ depending on your set up. This is where you need to have someone adjusting the projector and another person giving feedback to get the best display. We perched the projector on a folding chair that was low enough downhill that it didn't impede the view of the screen. We connected to a power source with an extension cord. You'll probably have to play around with the screen ratio size in the projector settings, we used 4:3

Step 4: Step 4: Sound

Finding the best way to project sound was our biggest challenge. We came up with two solutions. One was to have people bring a laptop and do Netflix Party so they could hear sound in each car personally. This is a bit of a hassle but would have been fine. We ended up using our Bluetooth speakers but connected them to the video on the laptop with an AUX cord instead of Bluetooth because Bluetooth left you with an annoying lag of the sound vs the video display. These speakers were great quality and loud enough that both rows of cars could hear perfectly well, and just in case we had subtitles on as well.

Step 5: Step 5: Trailers

We wanted the full effect of the movies so I found a couple of good little movie trivia videos that other people have already made on youtube and had this playing on the screen as people arrived. It worked so well, you could hear everyone shouting the answers from their cars. It was a cute little way to unite everyone without having face to face conversations.

Step 6: Step 6: Enjoy the Movie!

As people arrive its good to have one person sort of directing traffic so people get the best spots possible. Tell people to bring blankets and pillows so you can enjoy the movie with your car off and get cozy. And bringing candy/popcorn really completes the night. We ended up picking Adam Sandler's Murder Mystery and it was a good middle of the road crowd pleaser. We fit 8 cars and had about 30 people. We're already planning another movie night!

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