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How to make a movie theater in your own backyard

How to make a movie theater in your own backyard
HandmadePictures via Dreamstime.com

In the old days, eccentric millionaires would often build private movie theaters. They would find a corner of their mansion and have a projection room installed, along with comfy seats and perhaps a wet bar. To watch a 35mm movie alone, or with a handful of friends, was considered the height of decadence.

Most of us have been content to visit the cineplex and eat popcorn among a hundred strangers. This is one of the great modern pastimes: Watching a moving picture on the big screen – laughing, gasping and weeping as one big audience.

Well, now you can have both. You can set up a private movie theater in your own backyard, and you can invite friends to enjoy the experience with you. Thanks to services like iTunes, you can buy a blockbuster that's still in theaters. Unlike a traditional movie theater, you can pause, talk loudly and microwave all the free popcorn you want.

Step 1: Figure out how to access movie

Before you can do anything else, you'll have to decide how to provide the movie in question. Will you stream it? If so, do you have a satisfactory WiFi connection? If you use a DVD, does your laptop still have a slot for this, or do you have another player that is compatible with a projector?

If you decide to stream the movie, click here for free (and legal) sites to find films to watch.

Granted, you can play a movie many different ways, and most of them are cheap and simple. But not all technology works well together. MacBooks and iPads are famously difficult to connect to many projectors, so you might want to consult with a vendor before you send out invitations.

Step 2: Find a projector

Be warned: People get obsessed with their projectors because there are so makes and models and each one is slightly different. You can find a $70 projector, such as the Dinly 130, which is designed to attach to laptops. Or you could invest more than $2,000 in the Epson Home Cinema Projector, which provides 2,500 lumens of light and more than a billion colors.

Aside from your budget, you'll also have to consider the space you're working with and how much ambient light will affect the resolution. If you're projecting in a big outdoor space, a cheaper projector might not show up very well, especially if you have to move the machine way back.

*Pro tip: Many expensive projectors also have expensive light bulbs. If that bulb goes out, you want to make sure you can procure (and afford) another one. Make sure to ask your vendor about replacement bulbs. For pricier models, you'll also want to learn about the warranty.

Next page: Keep reading for tips on speakers, screen set up, and seating arrangements.
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