When it comes to entertaining in your backyard, you can install lighting to ward off the night, or you can take advantage of the darkness and break out your custom built outdoor movie screen. With just a few simple steps and a few simple tools, turn your yard into a home theater to rival the drive-in.
Step 1 – Measure Your Space
Determine where your screen will go and measure the area. Consider where the projector will go and how far it has to shoot its image, because that will be a factor in the size screen you need. In this case, the screen size was 16 feet long by 9 feet high, which happens to fit the aspect ratio of most of today’s movies, 16:9. You can adjust the size to fit your space.
Step 2 – Dry Fit the PVC Frame
1-inch PVC comes in 10-foot lengths at the home center, so they only need to be cut down a little to make the vertical supports. Instead of doing a lot of cutting to make the horizontal runs, you can buy 2-foot lengths and join them with straight connectors. For this size frame, we need 5 9-foot verticals and 8 4-foot horizontal sections for the top and bottom.
Build the whole thing lying on the ground. Starting at one end, put elbows on a vertical pipe and add a 4-foot section to each elbow. Fit a Tee to the horizontals and another vertical between them. Repeat the pattern until you’ve completed the frame.
Step 3 – Measure and Cut
All those connectors add to the length of the pipes, so the frame is longer and taller than you need it to be. For the verticals, cut the excess length off each pipe. For the horizontals, divide the excess in half and cut that measurement only off the 4 verticals attached to the elbows. Mark those pipes, because now they’re shorter than the others and they have to be corner pieces.
Step 4 – Glue It Together
Now that everything is the right size and you know it fits, glue the fittings to the vertical pipes. You can glue the straight connectors if you’re using them in the horizontals, but don’t glue them to the Tees and elbows. That way it can be disassembled and folded up. You have to use actual PVC glue. It creates a chemical weld, melting the pipe and fitting together.
Step 5 – Attach the Screen
Unfold your screen and lay it over the frame. It should overlap by a few inches on all sides. You can use a white tarp, or for a bit more money you can get an actual movie screen, which will last longer. Starting with a vertical edge, wrap the screen around to the back of the frame and screw it in place every 8 inches or so. Use self-drilling screws with an attached washer and rubber gasket. These will pinch the screen to the frame, holding it in place and preventing it from tearing.
You need two people for this. With one horizontal edge attached, pull the screen tight and screw to the back side of the top and bottom, keeping it tight as you go, working your way toward the other edge. Don’t drive screws too close to the Tees, or it will be hard to take it apart later. When you reach the edge, screw the screen down to the other vertical edge, just like you started.
Step 6 – Attach the Hooks and Eyes
Where the screen will hang from, mark the locations of the Eye screws that will support it. For one this size we used 4 evenly spaced. Drill a pilot hole and then screw the eyes in place.
Drill pilot holes in the top of the frame, matched up to the location of the Eyes. Set a hook all the way through each hole, secured with a nut above and below.
Now you can hang the screen in place.
Step 7 – Break it down for Storage
After the movie is over, take the screen down from its hooks and lay it flat. Disconnect the horizontal pipes from the Tees and elbows. The inner verticals can be removed and set aside. The outer verticals and the horizontals are still attached to the screen. Fold the screen by sections, wrapping the excess around the bundle. Now you can put it in the garage until the next movie night.