Backyard Theater




First time/long time...Inspired by the Guerrilla Drive-in Instructable by plusbryan, I built a temporary backyard theater. This Instructable will cover the basics on building a projection screen that won't break a budget or be pushed around by an evening breeze.

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Step 1: Materials

My vision was a 8' x 16' screen. At the local Lowes I purchased:

4) 4' x 8' sheets of 7/16 OSB ($7 per sheet)
3) 10' 2 x4's ($3-4 per board)
8) 8' 2 x 4's ($2-3 per board)
1) Box of 1 5/8" dry wall screws (coarse thread) ($5/box)
1) tube of painters caulk ($2/tube)
1) partial can of white-ish paint I had around.

Tools --
skill saw
screw gun
tape measure
speed square
various clamps

Other items needed for the final event were donated by friends or I had already

DVD player and amp
Speakers + 50' of speaker wire
Raiders of the Lost Ark DVD
HD Projector (courtesy of my employer).

Step 2: Assembly

Like I said before, the vision was a 8' x 16' screen. Once I mocked this up with the 4 sheets of OSB, I quickly realized there was no freakin' way I could erect this and have it safely stay vertical, without buying more lumber. Change in plans...8' x 12' is manageable and still an impressive size for a backyard.

Step 3: Assembly

After settling on the layout, I then used the 1 5/8" screws at every 2 feet. I wanted to keep this something that can be easily taken a part or modified. On the outside edges of the OSB I screwed into the edge of the 10' 2 x 4. Then where I joined the 2 horizontal sheets with the single vertical sheet, I screwed into the face of the 2 x 4. Probably not needed but it seemed to add surface area to screw to.

Step 4: Paint

I located a partial gallon of white-ish paint we had from some other project. I employed my 11 year-old and 3 year-old to swab the paint on. After the paint dried, I added a bead of caulk at the joints. This should have been done before paint, but the painters could not wait. Caulking the joints is probably not necessary, but I didn't want a rough joint distracting from the movie.

Step 5: Footing Gussets

With the now "extra" 4th sheet of OSB, I cut into a 4' x 4' square and then a diagonal cut for the gussets. Screwed off and moved to the next one.

Step 6: After Paint Assembly

I clamped the 2 x 4 to the face of the screen for temporary support. Tipped the structure up and clamped support legs to the back. Pounded some steaks - screwed the steaks to the legs on the structure to secure.

Step 7: Final Thoughts

This made a fairly impressive outdoor screen for a projector. Next summer when I do this again, I will lay all 3 sheets of OSB vertical and build the frame similar to a wall with common house framing construction...and leave it up for the summer!

Thoughts of hanging speakers from the screen and adding some sort of a sub woofer as well.

As for the event was a huge success. Most of the neighborhood arrived as well has close friends and family. My wife's Wasabi popcorn was a hit! Looking back, Raiders of the Lost Ark probably wasn't the best choice for a family event. My 3 year-old still talks about a dead monkey and some guys face melting???

Thanks for checking out this Instructable! Look for "Phase 2" next spring!!!

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    28 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Wasabi popcorn?! Sounds AMAZING!

    This looks like so much fun!!! Could you please tell me more about the projector, and how it is used with the DVD player? I'm not technically competent, if you could explain in really basic terms, I'd really appreciate it.  Also, roughly, what would the projector cost, and where can a person purchase one?

    3 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I work for a school district and we are always "surplussing" projectors. Find a contact number for your local school district and get in touch with the warehouse - you'll probably find out they have periodic sales of this kind of stuff. You can usually get a projector for 5 or 10 bucks. If you can, power it on, make sure the bulb is good. The bulbs cost dearly. As long as the bulb is good, a 10 buck investment in backyard fun is a great deal!!!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Projectors connect to the DVD player in much the same way as a TV, the only difference being that they (generally) don't have speakers built in (the ones that do generally have small speakers that are more suited to indoor use) - so you also have to means to amplify the sound, such as a stereo / Hi Fi / amplifier with an external input, plus some speakers. For oudtoor use, you may need quite a bright projector (they are rated (and priced) by the number of lumens they put out) unfortunately this would mean more money. These can be brought new from electronics / computer stores like Best Buy, or you could pick up a second-hand one on eBay for much less (although the problem then is that the bulb may be nearing the end of its life and they are expensive to replace, so it may be a false economy).


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks a lot for helping me understand.  Did I mention that my friend converted his garage into a drive -in movie theater?  Well.. the car was NOT turned on, but everyone huddled in to the car and ate popcorn and licorice and drank pop and watched old black and white movies. I love stuff like that.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Periodically the powers that be ask for suggestions of what to do out at the local township lake to get more people out there to "recreation".  Next time I'm going to suggest building a movie screen and purchasing a projector to rent out. However I can hear them now complaining how about how the hoodlums might  tear it up.  That is a very real possibility, but I growing tired of this down letting what may happen from doing anything interesting.  Anyway a good instructable of how you did yours, thanks for taking the time to document it.

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Introduction

    There is a company in NJ that's sells White Tarps (like the more common blue or green ones with the grommet holes). I used one of those for a couple of summer's showing Nascar night races, I think it was 16'x30' for about $60.00


    9 years ago on Introduction

    One thing you might want to look at for improving your screen next year is shower board. It's the glossy white laminate you normally use to create a custom shower surround. It's about $10 per 4'x8' sheet - works great as a dry erase board and as a projector surface too - though I wouldn't write on it if you dedicated it's use to a projector. Nice project!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Great job! Did you only use it once?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice.  I couldn't build a permanent screen in the backyard because there are times of the year with SEVERE wind.

    I did build an 8' x 4' screen with melamine that I would roll out on wheels.

    Then I built a screen that I can assemble in 15 minutes.  The frame is made of 3/4" EMT conduit.   The screen material is 15' x 12' piece of painters drop cloth (grommetted) that I attached to the frame with those ball bungee cords.

    I couldn't be happier.  I was at first afraid that I would see the seams of the canvas -- happy to say I can't.  The dimensions are great because I not only can see current 16:9 ratio films on the "big screen" but I can also watch 4:3 TV shows (and some older films like "The Shining" ) on the "big screen".

    Cost be about $120 to build.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Great job... I did a similar version to this about 1 year ago. My screen came out to be the same size: 8' high and 12' wide (made up of three 8'x4' sheets). It was gonna be temp, but became perm. after we discovered how heavy it was. Stood for the longest time, until we had a storm with strong winds (half asleep, heard huge bang, went back to sleep knowing it was the screen). This summer bought some white movie canvas off off ebay and planted some PVC pipes to hold the material. Works out great (especially since there's no lines in the picture now).

    1 reply

    Hey FrenchCrawler,

    I did a search on Ebay for movie canvas.
    Nothing came up!
    What exactly is Movie canvas.
    Or just regular canvas.

    Oh, GREAT instructable  Medmisfit!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Cool!!  My friends have a large barn like garage and every tear they put a movie on it with there projector. I Just did an Instructable on how to go to the drive-in with style, you should check it out. 


    9 years ago on Introduction

    hmm so u live in below the equator or did u just take a while to put this up?


    9 years ago on Step 1

    Weapons of mass construction, good one!