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.
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.
Emily Fazio, 2016
As you plan for the party, keep in mind everything that goes into making it a great experience:
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Courtesy Kelsey Nixon, 2012 CookingChannelTV.com
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!
Emily Fazio, 2016
- 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
For more ideas on showing movies in your home, get tips for designing the ultimate media room.