The Best Outdoor Movie Set-Up for Under $400

If you are looking to throw a backyard movie party on the cheap, then it’s very possible to do so for less than $400. With just a few smart investments, your own time and preparation, plus a list of guests, you can be up and running in no time at all!

In this guide, I am going to show you how to put on your own backyard movie party night for under $400 – I will also include some additional tips you might want to use to help make the night a massive success. It should mean your movie night will live on in the memory for years to come.

Let’s be clear – you don’t need an expensive outdoor movie screen and projector bundle.

You can get up and running with a cheap projector, cheap screen, and then play movies via a plugged-in smartphone or alternative multimedia device – gone are the days in which you would need to haul a DVD player out into your backyard – although, with my recommendations, you can still do that if you need to.

This guide will you what you need in terms of a cheap outdoor projector and screen combo or bundle, how to set everything up, planning advice, and some additional tips you might not have even considered.

At the end of the guide, you will know what you need to buy, how much it will cost, and how you can run a successful outdoor movie night for less than $400 on the cheap. But it won’t look cheap – I promise you!

But why should you listen to me and my advice?

I’ve been putting my own backyard movies on for over a decade, and in that time, have held countless events.

Since starting the Outdoor Movie Projectors website I have acted in a consultancy role for both private party organizers and corporate events. You can read more about my story here.

Putting that to one side though, let’s get into it with my guide for the best backyard movie set-up for less than $400 dollars.

Before I start though, most guides you will read online will start off with a recommendation on the best outdoor movie projector for less than $400. But this guide is different, as I am aiming to ensure you can run the entire night for less than that.

If you want recommendations on the best backyard movie projects for under $400, then go take a look at my recommended gear section.

If instead, you want to work to a budget of $400 for the entire set-up, including the projectors and screen package then read on.

I have assumed you already have a DVD player and some speakers – if you don’t then that’s not a problem because my recommended cheap outdoor projectors come with built-in speakers, and can also play movies from devices such as smartphones, games consoles, USB drives, or other multimedia devices.

Pretty much any device you own that can play video will be compatible with the outdoor movie screen and projector bundle packages I suggest.

This guide will include:

  1. What type of inexpensive outdoor screen you will need
  2. 3 recommendations on portable outdoor movie projectors
  3. Other items to consider which will help make the night a roaring success
  4. Some legal guidance on the law (but note, I am not a lawyer)

A Cheap Outdoor Movie Screen

The first thing I advise you to do is build or buy the screen itself. Now you have two options here.

You can either make your own cheap outdoor movie screen, but honestly, it’s going to take time and does require a certain skill set in terms of how good you are at DIY.

The best and most hassle-free option would be to buy a build-for-purpose portable outdoor movie screen set-up. They don’t cost a lot, are quick and easy to assemble, plus are made from specialist materials for projecting movies in the outdoors.

It will work a lot better than using a bedsheet – trust me.

As we’re working to a budget of just $400 then I am not even going to start recommending large-scale professional outdoor movie screens, just cheap portable ones.

Carl’s DIY Projector Screens

I’d like to introduce you to a budget backyard movie screen solution from a company called Carls. They have screen kits that you can either hang up or set up standing.

Obviously, I don’t know what your backyard or outdoor space is like, so I can’t recommend the exact model or size that you opt for, but they can all be purchased on Amazon very cheaply.

The lowest-priced outdoor movie screen you can buy would be the Carl’s DIY Hanging Projector Screen Kit with the dimensions of 5×9 foot (16:9 ratio, 120 inches diagonally).

You should be able to get one on Amazon for less than $150 – prices change all the time though so click here for the latest deals.

If you want one which comes with a stand or something bigger (see dimensions in the image above) then you will need to pay a little more money.

Again though, all options are available on Amazon.

The one I recommend above should be ample size for anybody just starting out with backyard movies, or planning a one-off event on a budget of less than $400.

Still Want Go Cheaper?

If you still want to go cheaper, then the only other product I might be tempted to recommend which I have used myself would be the JaeilPLM 100-inch portable outdoor projection screen. It’s smaller and lower quality than Carl’s screen I recommend but does already come with a stand.

Believe me, though, it’s not a patch on Carl’s screen kit in terms of image quality and product durability so perhaps only should only be considered if you are never going to show a movie again, as it probably won’t last long and could even take off in the wind.

A Cheap Outdoor Movie Projector

The next thing you will need to buy for your backyard movie set-up for less than $400 is the actual projector itself.

This is where things can get confusing due to the wide range of products available on the market. It’s easy to get this wrong when buying a cheap outdoor movie projector as the quality can vary massively between the different brands.

The Best Outdoor Movie Projectors for Under $250

I’ve listed a few recommended products that you can choose from, depending on your own preference and the type of outdoor movie night or party you want to throw.

EUG X760 LCD Projector with Built-in Speakers

This portable projector retails at under $250 (view latest price on Amazon), meaning it will fall well within your $400 backyard movie budget. With excellent reviews on Amazon and some stand-out features, it should work perfectly as an entry-level product.

It also comes with built-in speakers, meaning you don’t have to spend any more money on additional tech, or even worry about connecting up additional cables. The 10w stereo speaker offers a relatively crisp sound which should be more than enough for a smaller gathering.

You can amplify the sound further though, and connect additional speakers to boost volumes if your party night is going to have more than a small group of people attending.

It’s multi-media friendly too, with various inputs and ports which let you connect up a USB flash drive, a PC, smartphone, tablet, Xbox, or PlayStation – you don’t have to run it from a DVD player, as instead can stream or play a movie via any type of modern device.

This outdoor movie projector also comes bundled with a free HDMI cable, giving you a hassle-free and cheap solution.

It’s really easy to set up, pretty much a plug-and-play product.

SeeYing S1 2500 HD Pocket Projector with Built-in Speakers

This is the smallest of my recommendations. It’s an ideal product for someone wanting something very portable… and still comes in on budget at less than $250 (view latest prices on Amazon). As before, it’s compatible with all of your devices, so you don’t necessarily have to connect it to a DVD player unless you really want to.

It also has built-in speakers in addition to being wireless. The battery life after charging could present an issue though, as it will only give 90 minutes of operating power, which won’t be enough for most movies. However, you can still connect the mains electricity supply via the supplied cable, so doesn’t need to be a problem unless you need to go 100% wireless.

This mini-projector supports both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, comes with an HDMI cable, a one-year warranty, plus can project up to 120 inches wide which means it will work fine with my recommended Carl’s screen earlier in this guide.

The image quality is good, but where the projector is very small it might mean you won’t be completely happy with the sound quality coming from the built-in speakers – I’d probably pair it up with a soundbar, or additional speakers.

Tangcison Video Projector with Built-in Speakers

And now for the cheapest of the lot. This will suit you if you really want to run a cheap outdoor movie night. You can see how cheap it is on where it retails typically for under $90 dollars.

Obviously, if you buy cheap there are going to be some things you don’t benefit from. For example, I wouldn’t even consider trying to watch outdoor movies on this during daylight hours – you will need night-time darkness to get a decent picture with this projector.

As with all of my recommendations, it’s fully compatible with all your devices, but also has ports so you can plug a DVD player into it. You will need to buy an HDMI cable separately though.

Of all the under $100 projectors, this is one of the best, but you do get what you pay for. It doesn’t feel particularly robust, but the reviews online are still pretty good. It’s ideal if you don’t want to spend much money, or don’t plan on holding regular backyard movie nights. 

How to Set-Up Your Backyard Movie Combo

If you have got this far, then congratulations you are almost there with putting your own successful outdoor movie night on for less than $400.

All you need to do now is wait for the products to arrive, set everything up in your backyard, and then hope that your guests arrive!

I’ve given you some options with regards to the technology you should buy, so cannot give an exact tech set-up, as products will vary between manufacturers.

Instead, here’s a simplistic overview as to what you will need to do:

  1. Connect the video signal from the DVD player into your outdoor projector or connect to your devices such as smartphones, games consoles, or USB drives.
  2. Connect the audio signal from the DVD player into your speakers if you want better sound quality than that which the built-in speakers will provide.
  3. Adjust the size of the projected movie by moving nearer or further from the screen.

Legal and Copyright Issues

Most other websites won’t give you any information on the legality involved in running a backyard movie night.

Lucky for you though, I’ve already put that information together. You can read by clicking here: Is it illegal to show an outdoor movie in my backyard?

If you don’t have the time to read all of that, then here is a quick overview of what you should know about copyright and legal implications:

Most importantly, will the movie night just be for your friends and family? If you answer yes to that question, and it’s going to be running in a private space, e.g. your backyard then you should be fine.

The law gets murky when you enter into the territory of inviting masses of people, some of whom you might not know. For example, with a block party, can you honestly say you know everyone?

From a legal perspective, you are allowed to show outdoor movies privately without having to purchase any licenses – as long as it is considered that the showing is to a normal circle of family friends, and acquaintances.

I go into a lot more detail in my guide to the law, I would recommend you read that if you are still unsure.

Respect Your Neighbors

Another aspect worth considering is your neighbors.

I’ve always made sure to be polite and consider them at all times. As part of that, I always give them ample warning that I will be showing a movie in my backyard, and even give them the option to come along themselves!

Even if your neighbors don’t attend, it will mean that they should be more tolerant of the noise and light that you are going to be creating.

What Else Might You Need?

So hopefully that’s given you an indication on how to set up your own outdoor movie night for less than $400.

You just need a cheap outdoor movie projector with built-in speakers and a suitable screen.

My product recommendations all come with built-in speakers, but you may still want to consider beefing up the sound with some proper ones. Many people will already own some themselves.

Aside from the audio considerations, they are other things that I would recommend you get to create the perfect event.

This is my shopping list of everything that I would have for a backyard movie night on a budget.

  • Extension cables for your equipment
  • A table or surface to set the outdoor projector onto
  • Chairs for your guests
  • Speakers if you want improved sound quality
  • DVD player if you are running the movie from a disc
  • A suitable movie or two
  • Snacks and drinks

Final Thoughts

Putting on an outdoor movie night for less than $400 is easier than you might think.

You don’t need to spend lots of money on expensive movie projectors, screens, and equipment. It’s possible to get up and running just with a smartphone, cheap projector, and screen as I’ve explained above.

The experience is all about having fun. You don’t need surround sound systems, massive speakers, huge screens, or expensive equipment to have a great night.

But what I will say is that I can almost guarantee that once your event is finished, you are probably going to start planning your next outdoor movie – this can get addictive, trust me.

If you do decide to invest more, then you might want to check out my recommended gear section. That gives you a more in-depth look at some more advanced products you could think about trying, with some impartial and honest product reviews as well.