How to set up your own outdoor cinema

Summer night, good company, a cold drink, popcorn, and a good film: an ideal plan, both for the kids and for the adults. It requires a bit of investment and effort, and yet you and your gang will reap the benefits throughout the session… or throughout the summer. 


There are companies that are professionally specialized in it, such as MEDIRFLASH SL or Mestras Videocinema, with sixty-five years of experience and a catalogue of more than fifty films (half of them, in Catalan), which can set up an open-air cinema in a jiffy. These companies offer the advantage of a comprehensive service, with which we can forget about assembly and management. Of course, we have to adapt to the existing offer, without much room for creativity and imagination. Quite the opposite of what we propose here.


Requirements for using the space

For viewers, the main goal when one of these sessions starts is to find the best possible place, right in the centre, and to enjoy the film! 

For those who organize it, however, the event calls for a certain dedication and preparation.

If we have enough space in the private sphere, this should be our favourite option; it will be much more comfortable to condition and, we will avoid the payment of the legal rights to show films in public spaces. This year, in addition, with the Covid-19 pandemic, we will have to apply all the recommendations for the prevention of contagion, and this will also be easier in our private space.

If we have to use a public space, the first requirement will be to obtain permission from the City Council or the institution that owns it. We also need to know that the screening of a film in a non-private space requires public display rights and copyright, as we will explain later.


The technical infrastructure

The essential technical infrastructure consists of the three basic elements of all cinemas: screen, projector, and sound.

  • Screen

The blank wall of the garden or terrace, or the white wall of a public space in our town, can be the projection screen of a charming evening of open-air cinema. This is the no-cost option. However, in terms of image quality, contrast, colour saturation, and sharpness they will not be great. 

If we don’t have access to a white wall, the next low-cost alternative is a sheet, the whiter, the better, which we will have to hold and lift with some type of support that keeps the surface very taut and flat. Beware, however, of the wind!

If our intention is to project several sessions, or to do so with a certain frequency, buying a screen is worth it. We can buy a folding-frame transportable screen from €200, or an ultraportable screen, from €140, both in 16:9 format (format for high definition) and 4:3 format (standard format of conventional television). The latest fads are inflatable screens, which can even be put in the water, from about €315.

  • Projector

At this point, we need to know that the most important element is the projector. Home projectors — the most commonly used ones — focus more on contrast than brightness, which is more enhanced in a professional projector. Domestic ones can be used on a summer night, but they require to be the more in the dark the better. 

When choosing a projector, lumens are essential: the more lumens, the better the projection result with ambient light. In addition to lumens, it is necessary to pay attention to the type of interior lamp: the traditional ones have an incandescent one, while the newer ones have LEDs and have a lamp that lasts five times longer. In addition, the filaments of incandescent lamps are more sensitive to movement and can break when hot.

If we want to see films in the highest quality, we have to choose a Full HD projector. Of these, there is good value for money from €400. Some models allow you to connect Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, or Apple TV, and send the contents directly from your mobile or tablet

  • Sound

As for the sound, it is worth mentioning that most projectors have speakers, but of limited quality and power. Still, if the session is petit comitè, we could have enough. Otherwise, we have several alternative options here. One option that has strong acceptance today are sound bars, which normally need to be connected to the power and the projector, being possible to do so both by cable and by Bluetooth, which current projectors incorporate.


Choose the film and pay for it

In the private sphere, we can choose a film from a payment platform and send it directly to the projector. If we do a public screening, exhibition fees must be paid, which may go from €150 and €320, depending on the film. When we have paid this amount, the distribution company will send us a copy of the film so that we can project it, in the format appropriate to our playback device.

We must add to this amount the Copyright, which, according to the General Society of Authors and Publishers (SGAE), is generated when you show the duly authorized film. This amount is €10.48 plus VAT per session. It should be clarified that, for the SGAE, a session can consist of up to two films screened consecutively and also that, from these copyrights, we can deduct up to 5%, if we do the film session under the auspices of some non-profit cultural entity.


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  1. Joan Santacruz CarlúsJoan Santacruz Carlús says:
  2. alicia Coiduras Charlesalicia Coiduras Charles says:

    Com m’agradat, nit d’estiu cinéma a la fresca, per fer-ho a casa amb els amics

    • David LópezDavid López says:

      Potser aquest, sigui un dels millors plans de les nits d’estiu!

      3 years ago

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