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How to Build an Outdoor Movie Theater Part 1: the Screen

Sundance, Cannes... your backyard? Make a theater the pros would envy with these steps.


  • Step 1: Set up the middle support Attach a T-connector to a 6-foot-2 piece of PVC pipe. Then, attach the 4-way cross connector to the other end. This will be the center support for the screen's frame.
  • Step 2: Make the top of the frame Affix two of the 4-foot-7 sections to either side of the T-connector to form the top of the frame. Attach an elbow to each open end of the 4-foot-7 pieces.
  • Step 3: Attach the sides Connect two 6-foot-2 sections of PVC to the elbows at the top of the frame. Affix T-connectors to each free end of those sections.
  • Step 4: Finish the bottom of the frame Run a 4-foot-7 piece between each T-connector and either side of the cross at the bottom of the middle support.
  • Step 5: Attach the legs Affix the three 3-foot-1 sections of pipe to the open ends of the bottom two T-connectors and the cross connector to make the screen's three legs. Seal all the connections using PVC cement, and let it dry.
  • Step 6: Attach eyebolts Drill one ¼-inch hole on each side of the frame just below the elbow joints. Thread an eyebolt through each hole so the eye is on the outside. Then, put the washers on, and tighten the nuts to secure the bolts in place.
  • Step 7: Mix the concrete Mix the concrete in each of the three buckets according to the directions.
  • TIP: Add water in small increments and stop when you've got a workable but thick consistency.
  • Step 8: Put sleeves in concrete Put an end cap on each of the 3-foot-2 sections of pipe. Set the capped ends in the wet concrete so they're centered at the bottom of the bucket and the pipe is vertical. Let the concrete dry.
  • Step 9: Reinforce the blackout cloth Fold the blackout cloth in half to form a 6-foot by 9-foot screen. Pin it to hold it in place and sew along each side. Remove the pins. Then, use the grommet punch to fix grommets along the edge of each side at 1-foot intervals.
  • TIP: The more grommets you make, the better the screen will stretch.
  • Step 10: Attach the screen to the frame Lay the six-by-nine sheet of blackout cloth in the center of the PVC frame. Run zip ties through each grommet and around the outside of the frame. Pull the ties tight so there are as few wrinkles as possible.
  • TIP: While you may still see a few creases, you won't notice them when watching your movie, especially when it's dark.
  • Step 11: Mount the screen Decide where to set up the screen. Slide each of the supports from the frame into the sections of pipe in the buckets.
  • Step 12: Complete screen set up Drive four anchor stakes into the ground around the screen, two on either side of the screen. Run nylon rope from each eyebolt to the stakes, and tie it so it's taut to keep the screen from tilting forward or backward. Now that you've got the screen, watch "How to Build an Outdoor Movie Theater Part 2: The Projector": to finish the job.
  • FACT: The country's first commercial outdoor theater was opened in New Jersey in 1933.

You Will Need

  • 1 1/2" diameter PVC pipe:
  • 3 6' 2" pieces
  • 4 4' 7" pieces
  • 3 3' 1" pieces
  • 2 elbow connectors
  • 3 T-connectors
  • 1 4-way cross connector
  • 2" diameter PVC pipe:
  • 3 3' 2" pieces
  • 3 end caps
  • PVC cement
  • Drill
  • 2 1/4" eyebolts with washers
  • and nuts
  • 3 5-gal. buckets
  • 2 80-Ib. bags of concrete mix
  • 6' X 18' blackout cloth
  • Straight pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Grommet punch
  • 30 3/8" grommets
  • 30 zip ties
  • 100' of nylon rope
  • 4 anchor skates

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