It takes one trip to the hardware store and less than an hour to turn an ordinary drop cloth into an outdoor movie screen, says John Sullivan of Projector People, a home-theater supply company in Tampa, Florida. There is one prerequisite: a yard with two trees that are at least 10 feet apart. That's where you'll hang the screen. First use a metal-grommet kit to attach grommets to each corner of the drop cloth. Next, thread bungee cords through the rings and secure the drop cloth to the trees. You can rent a wide-screen projector with a built-in DVD player and speakers for about $85 a day (atsrentals.com). Look for one with at least 2,500 lumens to guarantee a bright enough picture, says Sullivan. For the best viewing conditions, set the projector on a small table at a distance that's 1.75 times the width of the screen. (Test it before the party so that there are no issues at go time. Also cover any exposed cords with chairs or other outdoor furniture to prevent tripping.) Think you will use a projector often and want to invest in one? Sullivan's pick is an all-in-one with a built-in DVD player and speakers: the Epson PowerLite Presenter, $850, epson.com.
2 of 6Marcus Nilsson
Invite guests to arrive an hour before dusk so that they have time to chat and pick a seat on the grass. No need to give everyone a lawn chair. Just set out the ones you have, and place outdoor pillows and blankets in baskets so everyone will have an option.
3 of 6Courtesy of MGM
Kid Films That Grown-Ups Love, Too
Try one of these crowd-pleaser picks chosen by Entertainment Weekly's Bill Keith.
1.The Parent Trap
"Romance plus hijinks, in a story that kicks off at summer camp—a natural fit for a night under the stars."
"The 80s cult favorite about kids who get their thrills not from TV or video games but from searching for treasure is just as gripping today."
3.The Princess Bride
"This quotable fairy tale has it all: action, adventure, fantasy, and funny business. Inconceivable!"
4.Fantastic Mr. Fox
"The animated Roald Dahl children's fable about a fox outwitting farmers is snappy, smart, and soulful."
The movie is the main event, so snacky foods work better than a hearty spread. Offer dressed-up popcorn and whoopie pies, plus a sandwich bar with a mix of meats, cheeses, breads, and spreads. Make your own shopping list or use the one below.
Meats: Ham, turkey, roast beef, and salami
Cheeses: Cheddar, Swiss, and pepper Jack
Breads: Potato buns, rustic bread, and demi-baguettes
Spreads and Toppings: Hummus, mustard, mayo, tomatoes, and pickles
Dinner in a Box
Takeout boxes contain a meal better than a plate balanced on a lap. Make yours movie-themed by looping a short strip of gold ribbon and adhering it to the front with a printed label. Download this one. Boxes, $10 for 10, etsy.com.
6 of 6Marcus Nilsson
Tie big, concession-size boxes of candy with filmstrip-print ribbon. Hollywood ribbon, $2 a yard, etsy.com.