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Your very own drive-in

Spend some time with friends at backyard movie night

Posted: August 8, 2008 8:35 p.m.
Updated: October 10, 2008 5:03 a.m.

All you need for a backyard movie party is a screen, a DVD player/projector, a sound system and some willing participants.

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Oh, boy, this is just what you need - another reason for folks to come over and judge your landscaping.

But then, again, maybe they won't. This group activity takes place in the dark. And if you keep the lights off and lead everyone to their seat with an usher's flashlight, maybe they won't notice your flowers look like fossils.

The activity in question is a backyard movie night, which can be a terrific activity for your immediate family members or for the whole neighborhood.

You boomers may remember this from the ancient times, when you hung up a white bed sheet and displayed home movies on it via your 8mm projector. Of course you weren't likely to get any recent-run blockbusters for this back in the day, but it was a novel way to get everyone out to feed the mosquitoes.

Though today's movie projection systems are a far cry from back then, the basic principle is still the same.
You shine the movie on something reflective.

All you need

Modern outdoor movie setups include three components - a screen, a DVD player/projector and a sound system. You supply the DVD movie. The size of your audience determines the size of the screen and the power of the sound system necessary, and the size of the screen determines the projection system you need.

The outdoor movie screens available these days are inflatable, which means they can be transported easily and set up almost anywhere. They range from about eight feet wide, for backyard use, all the way up to 40 feet wide, for stadium-sized crowds.

You can purchase your movie systems, or rent them, from companies such as Outdoor Movie Events, located in Valencia and owned by Tyler "I Run the Show" Shaw.

Shaw explained that the basic package offered by OME includes an eight foot wide inflatable movie screen with an electric air pump, an all-in-one projector/DVD player suitable for that screen, and a four-speaker sound system with sub woofers.

The package rents for $199 a day, plus $99 more for each additional day. You can also purchase this same package for $2,950.

You pick up the neatly-packaged and easily-transportable system from OME - it will fit in a car trunk - and bring it back when you are done.

"All the cables are labeled. It's really simple for people to set it up themselves," Shaw said. "You're done in 10 minutes. It's a turn-key package. It comes with instructions, but it's self-explanatory."

However, if you'd like help setting up the system, it is available. Shaw said that for an additional $50 ($249 total) his technicians will deliver the system, set it up and make sure it is all working properly, and then come out and pick it up the next day.

He added that, if you already have some of the necessary components, such as a DVD projector and/or sound system, OME will offer an appropriate price reduction.

But he said that a lot of research was done to ensure all the system's components match up and work together well, and that this system is perfect for groups from 10 to 100 people.

Good times in the hood

Playing movies is the most common use of the OME backyard theater package, but Shaw said you can also use it to play video games from your Xbox or PlayStation.

And thus it is perfect for birthday parties and swim parties or even block parties. "Kids can swim and watch movies or music videos ... on the Fourth of July we had a neighborhood that did a potluck. They brought in jumpers for the kids to use before dark," he said.

If you do some research about outdoor movie parties online, you'll quickly see that anything goes, but events themed to the movie shown are quite popular. You could have a pirate party for "At World's End," or a baseball party for "Field of Dreams," or a swim party to - well anything wet. You could do sing-alongs to musicals.

But it doesn't have to be movies. As mentioned, you can play video games or music videos. You can do karaoke or show a special live sporting event.

Repeat customer

Joshua Abramson, Stevenson Ranch resident, owner of local A.Allbright Painting, and a friend of Shaw's, has rented the outdoor movie system from OME twice. "It's my second time doing it. That's how much I like it," he said. "It's just a different experience, and so kid-friendly. They get to be who they want to be during the movie - get up and walk around."

The most recent outdoor movie event was for Noah Abramson's 10th birthday party. There were nine boys, who played in a moon bounce before the movie and slept in that moon bounce afterward. Before the movie they played video games from the Abramson's Wii system. There was popcorn, ice cream cones and shaved ice. Later, they watched the movie, "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," from the spa, from the pool, from chairs and from floaties.

"It's a lot of fun for kids to be able to watch the larger screen. Like a drive-in movie, they can move around and talk," Joshua Abramson said.

Invite the neighbors

Shaw noted that there are a couple things those who host outdoor movie parties should be aware of. Most importantly, movie licensing issues could come into play if the gathering is large, if anyone pays to watch the movie or if the movie title is used on any promotional materials or invitations. But he said OME can provide information on proper licensing procedures.

"It's really not an issue with the eight-foot screens," he said.

Also, you must remember to be neighborly with an outdoor movie party.

Warn your neighbors, or invite them, keep the volume down and don't go late. Joshua Abramson said his family gave their nearby neighbors a heads-up before the party and shut things down at 10 p.m. "It's not a double feature," he said.

A couple other concerns for an outdoor event might be mosquitoes and sprinklers. While bugs aren't too much of a problem in the SCV, some areas are more prone to them than others.

And if you have sprinklers on an automatic timer - be sure they don't come on during the party or while the movie system is still on the lawn.

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