Host a Cozy Movie Night

An at-home movie night is a fun way to bring together young and old and integrate family into your entertaining.

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Movie nights are some of my favorite nights of the year. We pull out the movie projector, spread out blankets and cushions, and invite all of our friends over for a fun big screen-type experience in our backyard or living room. Host movie night for your child’s next birthday party, for a graduation party, or even an adults-only shindig (the kind where you can provide wine, cheese, and show a scary movie in your dark backyard). In any and all instances, be sure to have plenty of popcorn.

Vote on custom popcorn flavors.

How to host a fun movie night

Host movie night at home, and make delicious popcorn for your friends.

Photo by: Emily Fazio ©2016

Emily Fazio, 2016

As you plan for the party, keep in mind everything that goes into making it a great experience:

Project Big

  • Indoor movie nights are made easier with a projector screen. I installed one right in our living room as a permanent feature, but mobile models are available too.
  • For outdoor movies, buy a traditional painter’s canvas at a hardware store ($10-$20) and attach it to your home, or hang it between trees. Think 8’ x 10’, or 12’ x 18’ to maximize the viewing area.
Theater Seats, Projector and Screen in Backyard

Backyard Movie Theater

Miss the experience of seeing flicks at the drive-in? Bring movies to your backyard instead. A projector, screen and surround sound are all you need in the AV department, and theater seats evoke the feeling of the multiplex.

Project Sound, Too

  • An indoor surround sound system can connect to your projector to make movie night very theater-esque.
  • When displaying outdoors, I find that a few thoughtfully placed computer speakers help to create a booming surround sound experience, without requiring that you mount an intricate surround sound system amongst the trees in your yard.

Cozy Up

  • We can host larger gatherings if we project a movie outdoors, but we always suggest that friends bring their own lawn chairs and outdoor blankets for comfort. 
  • Freestanding space heaters like the one shown below are totally worthwhile too. When the temperatures dip after sunset, it's always nice to have a source of warmth. You can find many models in the $150-$300 price range.
Patio Sitting Area With Black and Beige Striped Sofa and Beige Chairs

Transitional Outdoor Living Space With Patio Heater

A chic patio heater warms this transitional outdoor living space in style. The heater coordinates with the beautiful outdoor furniture, creating a perfect spot for entertaining.

Photo by: Brian Neel Parks

Brian Neel Parks

Get snacks to suit

Easy edibles are a must when you’re hosting a movie night. Offer s’mores if you’re able to have a small outdoor fire, and wine and cheese for an adult party, and popcorn too – always popcorn. You might not think of popcorn as a base for testing new recipes, but there are some amazing popcorn mixes that will put the traditional movie theater buttered technique to shame.

Without a doubt, you need to check out this list of 50 flavored popcorn recipes from our friends at Food Network, and then offer your guests a variety at your next movie night. 

Popcorn cooked with maple and nuts

Maple-Nut Popcorn

The sweet-and-spicy snack mix is seriously addictive. Place bowls of this nutty mix around your holiday party and watch it disappear. Get the recipe.

Photo by: Courtesy Kelsey Nixon ©2012

Courtesy Kelsey Nixon, 2012

Some of my favorites?

Sushi Popcorn: Whisk 1 1/2 tablespoons each vegetable oil and soy sauce with 2 teaspoons each toasted sesame oil and rice vinegar; drizzle over 16 cups hot popcorn. Toss with 2 cups torn roasted seaweed snacks and 1 cup wasabi peas.

Maple Pecan Popcorn: Heat 2 cups sugar, 1 cup maple syrup and 1/2 cup light corn syrup in a large pot until it reaches 260 degrees F on a candy thermometer, about 12 minutes. Add 3 cups pecans and cook 2 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter until melted, then pour over 16 cups hot popcorn; toss to coat. Spread on baking sheets and let cool.

Cinnamon Sugar Popcorn: Drizzle 6 tablespoons melted butter over 12 cups hot popcorn; toss with 4 cups cinnamon cereal (such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch), 1/3 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.

Use a stove top popper for more control over your recipe – the Whirley-Pop popper is a must-have, easy-to-use product. It only takes about 1/4 cup of kernels and 5 minutes to pop enough for 2 people!

Vote on custom popcorn flavors.

How to host a fun movie night

Host movie night at home, and make delicious popcorn for your friends.

Photo by: Emily Fazio ©2016

Emily Fazio, 2016

Encourage voting

  • If you're having trouble choosing a movie to show, narrow it down to 3 options that would appeal to the age ranges in attendance, and vote. Popular vote wins, no crybabies!
  • Make more fun of voting by having your guests rate your multiple popcorn varieties; simple voting slips allow your friends to note their favorite concoctions (and place suggestions for the next party).

5 Tips for a Standout Birthday Party

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Creative Theme

A clever theme lets party guests escape to another world. For a kid's birthday, try recreating their favorite movie. Or, consider something more outside of the box, like a gumball party, cotton candy party or circus party.

Eye-Catching Decor

Vibrant party decor and a cheery table setting are key elements to a standout birthday party. But there's no need to go all out with elaborate, expensive decorations. Even simple, plastic plates and utensils in bold, solid colors can create a festive setting.

Guest List

Whether you're inviting every kid in your child's class or just a few friends, it always helps to have a guest list where you can keep track of RSVPs. We also recommend verifying the party date will work for your child's best friend before mailing out invitations. Keep everything on track with our birthday party timeline.

Party Venue

After you've chosen the perfect theme and narrowed down your guest list, it's time to pick out a venue. If you're having a small party, your house may be the ideal option. But a larger party might work better at a local park, restaurant or event space. If you plan on hosting a party somewhere other than your home, be sure not to wait too late to book a venue. 

Photo By: © Andjic

Custom Invitations

Handmade invitations can add a personal touch to your party, and they are surprisingly simple to make! For these cute baseball party invitations, you'll only need white cardstock, a printer, a red marker and scissors. But if you'd rather print an adorable invite, we have 16 (free!) printable options you'll love. 

Photo By: Laura Fenton

Party Over Here

If your guests don't already know where you live or aren't familiar with the party venue, a homemade sign with colorful balloons is a great way to direct them to the party.

Photo By: Paper Crush

Present Plan

A few days before the party, it's a good idea to decide how you will handle presents. For young children, it may be better to reserve opening presents until after the party guests leave. However, if your child will be opening presents at the party, a quick refresher on sharing and saying, "Thank you," is always a good idea. 

Photo By: ©

Turn Up the Tunes

Every good party needs music, and a child's birthday party is no exception. Whether you set up a karaoke machine, supply kid-sized instruments or simply stream a kid-friendly music station, the right music will set the scene for a super fun day.

Photo By: ©

A Killer Cake

What's a birthday party without cake? The more sprinkles, icing and candy the better! To save money on this party staple, we recommend dressing up a store-bought or homemade cake with colorful candy. See how blogger Kim Stoegbauer created an impressive DIY cake using rock candy!

Atypical Treats

When it comes to party treats, we recommend planning a little something extra beyond the traditional birthday cake. Ice cream and fruit served out of colorful sundae cups is a healthier option that is still fun for kids. 

Main Meal

If your party is lasting longer than a couple of hours, a menu that includes some heartier options will keep the kids energized and in good spirits. Try these mini cheeseburgers for an instant crowd pleaser.

Game Plan

Keep the kids entertained with little games throughout the party. Even something as simple as, "Guess how many gumballs are in the jar," can add an extra element of fun. 

Other Activities

For an exciting activity everyone can enjoy, a classic piñata is a great way to bring all the kids together to cheer on their friends. And the anticipation of raining candy never hurts!

Photo By: © Chiang

Entertainment Center

If you plan to book entertainment for your party, you'll want to be sure to plan ahead. Clowns and magicians are popular options. For a more cost-friendly alternative, ask a friend or babysitter to set up a simple face-painting station.

Photo By: ©

Fabulous Photos

Don't forget the photo ops! Candids are great, but kids will love a photo booth with silly props and face masks. Ask a friend or another parent to man the photo booth. Polaroids make great party favors! Find 15 printable mustache templates and props here.

Photo By: © Legg

Exceptional Favors

And speaking of party favors, sending your guests home with something extra special will make your party one to remember. For the perfect ending to a great day, try favors that relate to the birthday party theme. Find even more party favor ideas here.

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For more ideas on showing movies in your home, get tips for designing the ultimate media room.

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