Watching movies outside in the back yard on the best outdoor projector screen for your needs is awesome. A starry night in the summer, the sounds of the evening, a gin and tonic, fresh air, and a classic movie outside with the kids is just magical. Kicking back in your chaise lounge under the stars with a glass of Red from the Arbor while watching the latest Game of Thrones episode with your friends is a real treat. And all of this is possible with an outdoor movie screen, some speakers, and a projector.
Outdoor theater setups are really cool and fun, but are obviously a different beast than simply buying a nice 1080P or 4K LCD indoor tv screen and setting it up in the family room. Configuring an outdoor theater can be complicated, and in the coming days OutsideModern will publish a guide as to how to get an outdoor theater system up Fully Operational, from projectors to sound to 3D viewing, etc. But this post is focused on outdoor movie screens alone. To complete your setup, you’ll also need a projector, speakers, the necessary cables, and a power supply capable of giving power in the location you plan on projecting. Beyond that, you’ll need a screen, and that’s what we will focus on today.
To see OutsideModern’s pick for best outdoor movie screen, click here!
- 1 Outdoor Projection Screen Basics
- 2 Product Closeups
- 3 The Best Outdoor Projector Screen
Outdoor Projection Screen Basics
Outdoor movie screens come in a few major styles and projection categories. For screen frame styles, there are a variety of types, from screens with their on frames and legs, to screens that can be suspended, to inflatable screens!
In terms of projection style, there are three major categories that outdoor projector screens fit into: rear projection, front projection, and dual projection screens. Most projectors can project either way by flipping the image in the proper manner, but we do suggest you confirm that your projector will work with the screen type you choose.
Rear Projection Screens
Rear Projection Screens are set up in such a way that a projector sits behind the screen, and images are essentially projected through the screen and at the viewers. Typically we would only recommend this configuration if there is no other place to put a projector but behind the screen.
Front Projection Screens
Front Projection Screens are set up such that the projector sits in front of the screen and projects at the screen, similar to how a movie theater projection screen works. Typically the back of a front projection screen is solid black, so as to prevent excess light from impacting the screen from behind and negatively altering the image quality.
Dual Projection Screens
Dual projection screens are multi-function, and can accept either front or rear projection. They are great for flexibility, but if you plan on just using either front or rear projection, it may be best to stick with a single-style screen and go with it.
How To Choose The An Outdoor Projection Screen
Among the main considerations when purchasing a screen are build quality, ease of assembly and disassembly, size, durability, and and portability. In this article we will examine several series of screens from different suppliers, as each supplier in this market offers an array of different sizes, configurations, screen materials, etc. We will cover all of these and determine the best backyard movie screen for your needs.
The projector brands shown here are not just individual products, but rather suites of options under a basic system. Most of these brands offer multiple size configurations, and some offer different screen types, projection styles, etc.
The Visual Apex ProjectoScreen120HD is a simple, but high quality, choice for an outdoor projector. It features a 16:9 format, and if the 120″ size is not to your liking, Visual Apex makes 5 different screen size options (all measured diagonally, like most televisions): 100″, 110″, 120″, 132″, and 144″. This chart shows the dimensions of each of the available options, giving the diagonal dimensions, screen size dimensions, and overall screen, frame, and leg dimensions.
|Screen Size (diagonal)||Viewable Dimensions (screen area)||Overall Dimensions (screen area + frame area)|
|100"||96" x 54"||104" x 93"|
|110"||96" x 54"||104" x 88.5"|
|120"||104" x 59"||112.5" x 93"|
|132"||115" x 64"||123" x 98.5"|
|144"||125" x 71"||133" x 104.5"|
Assembly and Setup
All of these options are designed as a one piece, foldable frame for easy storage and setup. Assembly of the frame is not required: you just unfold it, extend the screen panel, and get your projector aligned to the screen dimension. Easy stuff, it takes about 15 minutes to set up by yourself!
The legs are not adjustable, so if you are on sloping ground, you may need to play around with some bricks or patio blocks to get the unit level. The legs are detachable for applications where the screen is to be suspended in the air, and grommets are supplied for ease of hanging.
Additional Items Included
Depending on their need, ground stakes and guy wires are supplied for additional support. Also, a carrying bag is included for all of the parts and accessories, and for the projector screen itself.
The screen fabric is Cinema Matte White 1.1 gain, 4K ultra HD, and it works great in both 2D and 3D! It is made from PVC elastic matte white material, is rot and mildew resistant, fire resistant, anti-static cleanable, and UV protected. Cleaning of the screen fabric is very simple, just spray it down with a hose and some soap if necessary. The screen material is very nice, and once it is stretched out on the frame, there are no creases or other blemishes to impact visual clarity. (note: if your screen has some wrinkles after you’ve put it up on the frame, put it out in the sun, with the black back side facing sunward. After a short while, the screen creases will vanish).
This movie screen is not designed to be hung on a wall, but with a little tweaking and a little creative thinking, it is possible to attach the Visual Apex ProjectoScreen to a wall. The overall weight of the screen and frame is about 35 pounds, and the construction feels reasonably solid but not unnecessarily heavy.
The Visual Apex ProjectoScreen is designed for front projection only, so if your environment would only work with a rear projection screen, look to one of the other options on this list. It will function in either an indoor or outdoor area, and generally the darker the ambient light of the area, the better the picture will be (though much depends on the amount of lumens put out by the projector itself).
One concern for this projector screen is wind. The frame is quite sturdy and firm, but it does not have any way to deal with strong winds, and if there are some serious gusts, the frame and screen can blow over. Adding weights may help stabilize the frame, but under the wrong conditions it can act like a sail and blow over, even when weighted, and you run the risk of bending the legs in windy conditions. Generally, if you’re concerned about the wind on a particular day, it’s probably best not to use the projector until the wind calms. And of course if you feel the rain coming on, it is wise to take the screen down.
The Bottom Line
Visual Apex offers a one year warranty with this product, so you can be comfortable that they stand behind their product! This really is a great choice, and is certainlyan excellent option for an outdoor projection screen. As a bonus it is available on Amazon Prime!
Elite Screens DIY Pro Series, 133-inch 16:9, Do-It-Yourself Indoor & Outdoor Projection Screen, Model: DIY133H1
The Elite Screens series of projection screens offers a wide array of options, and you will be able to find something of interest among the array of products. The one shown above is the DIY133H1, however the following chart shows the other products in their line. For simplicity, they offer a 4:3 aspect ratio screen and a 16:9 aspect ratio screen, in both rear and front projection models. Depending on the projection style, the screen gain (natural brightness) is altered to compensate for the projection style.
Here is a chart that shows the dimensions and options for the Elite Screens series of projection screens.
The EliteScreens DIY series front projection screens offer an opaque black backing for higher contrast, and and both 1.1 gain screens and 2.2 gain screens (the 2.2 gain screen would give significantly higher brightness than the 1.1 gain screen), and the 2.2 gain is used to compensate for the fact that they are rear-projection screens.
Assembly and Setup
The EliteScreens series of screens does not come with a frame; it just comes with grommet holes that can be used to mount the screen in different fashions (usually hung, but you could construct a frame for it if you wish). This movie screen is simply hung in the location you need, and once you have it up and level, you’re good to go. Once suspended, this unit can be left hanging if inside. If being used outside, it is recommended that you take the unit down when not in use, as wind, rain, and pollen will all damage the screen over time.
Additional Items Included
These units do not come with any hardware, though a carrying case is included. Curtain hardware can be a useful and inexpensive mounting frame for this screen.
The screen fabric on the 1.1 gain screens is made of DynaWhite 1.1gain textured PVC vinyl, designed for outdoor usage, with a 160′ viewing angle. It features a black masking border around the screen, which enhances picture contrasts and absorbs light overshoot onto the projection screen. It is easy to clean, and can be sprayed down with soap and water when necessary. On the 2.2 gain screens (the rear-projection screens, in this case) EliteScreens uses the WraithVeil textured PVC surface, with 2.2 gain and a 160′ viewing angle.
The EliteScreens series can be washed with soap and water. If you find creases on these screens, it is best to let the screen hang open for a while, and most of the creases will disappear. If necessary, a hairdryer can be aimed at the creases, and the heat will help them smooth out. Creases are a problem with this model, especially if it is not stored rolled up, so beware that it can be difficult to remove all traces of wrinkles. As of this writing, when the screen is shipped, it is folded, so when you receive it it will be in a folded state, and you’ll already have wrinkles. There is some suggestion that EliteScreens may be changing their shipping method and rolling the screens, which would be wise. If we can confirm that, we will change our review.
The Bottom Line
The EliteScreens series of screens does have its place on our list, and if you’re looking for a rear projection screen, it is definitely one of the best outdoor projector screens. If you are picky about wrinkles we would suggest you choose a different option. As a small bonus, these screens are available on Amazon Prime!
The Gemmy Deluxe Outdoor Inflatable Movie Screen is mildly ridiculous looking, but it really is quite functional. The inflatable design solves several problems that impact the standard fixed screens seen elsewhere on this page. It inflates pretty quickly when plugged in, as long as you have have good lung capacity (kidding!). This unit includes a fan system that blows up the Gemmy Delux, and in a few minutes you can be enjoying movies! It easily deflates, and is quite portable and easily-stored.
The screen attaches to the inflatable backing with some buckles, and is removable. Theoretically, you could contrive a way to suspend the screen on its on inside during the cold months, and then use the inflatable backing outside during the warmer months. But the inflatable backing is purely outdoor-focused, so it’s not really a great choice for an indoor-outdoor screen, if that’s what you’re looking for.
This unit is 12′ long, diagonally. It is 137″ high and 147″ wide, and the screen is 120″ x 70″, for a 16:9 aspect ratio. The feet that support the Gemmy Delux movie screen are 70″ long from front to back.
Assembly and Setup
The Gemmy Delux Outdoor Inflatable Movie Screen comes with two fans that quickly and efficiently inflate the unit. You’ll need a constant supply of electricity, as the fans run continuously, similar to a bouncy house in design. They blow up the unit, and keep running to maintain the inflated status. After you have secured the Gemmy screen backing, you then align the projector to the screen, and you’re good to go!
Additional Items Included
The Gemmy Delux includes yard stakes, tethers or guy wires, the all-important fans used to inflate the unit, and a carrying case to keep everything compact and stored when not in use. If you find that you are using this screen a lot, you may want to pick up sturdier stakes from your local home improvement store to help hold the screen in place. While the included stakes are decent, they could be better. Also, the bag is a bit small for the whole package, and it may be easier to keep the screen out of the bag, but rolled up. Don’t fold the screen, as you’ll have to deal with wrinkles if you’re not careful!
This screen is front projection only, so if your patio area only will function with a rear-projecting setup, the Gemmy is not what you’re looking for. The material of the screen is a high quality, durable, textured vinyl with a little bit of image gain. The screen quality is quite impressive. It is thick and has a black backing, so light should not penetrate the screen.
The Gemmy Delux is made of ripstop nylon, similar to camping tents. It is pretty hardy, and can handle being placed on a semi-rough surface. It is stable in light wind. If the wind picks up the Gemmy Delux may not stay still enough to allow you to watch movies. Of course, none of the other units work great in windy environments either, so this isn’t a huge negative.
The blower fans run constantly to keep the Gemmy Delux inflated, and they does make a little noise. If you are really bothered by fan noise, this unit may not be for you. If you have a decent speaker system or are outside with extraneous outdoor noises, the addition of the fan noise will likely not be a big issue to you.
The Bottom Line
The Gemmy 39127 Delux Inflatable Outdoor Movie Screen is a fantastic option for an outdoor projection screen, if you can get beyond the mild silliness of the inflatable nature of the product, and the small amount of noise generated by the fans. It is easy to use, easy to set up and put down, and works well. Your kids will love it, as it’s a bit fun and whimsical, and it functions really well. As an additional bonus, it is available on Amazon Prime!
The Best Outdoor Projector Screen
All three of the series of screens we have reviewed today have advantages and disadvantages, and each one may be the best choice for your needs, depending on your circumstances. If we had to choose one, however, we would go with the Gemmy Delux Inflatable Outdoor Projection Screen. It’s so simple to use, and works well, it can’t be beat, to us it is the best outdoor projector screen. Happy movie watching!