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Designing The Ultimate Backyard Home Theater Experience

Creating the ultimate backyard home theater is exciting. Imagine transforming your outdoor space into an incredible movie-watching experience where friends and family gather under the stars to enjoy their favorite films.

Backyard home theater
Laurie C. Peters

We spoke with interior designer, Janna Robinson for the best advice on designing the ultimate backyard home theater. With this comprehensive guide and with the help of RoomSketcher, you can play with these ideas to find your perfect design!

Visualize Your Backyard Home Theater Into Existence!

Outdoor home theaters are one of the biggest and fastest-evolving trends for homeowners. What's more, a backyard home theater can add resale value if built as a permanent installation.

The best part is that designs and various elements don’t have to be complicated. In today's market, there are fantastic options that accommodate a wide range of budgets.

The following is a list of what is needed to create the ultimate backyard home theater.

Outdoor home theater checklist

Start With a Broad Stroke Design Wish-List

When designing an outdoor home theater, flesh out your goals. First, determine the level of sophistication you're striving for. Next, establish your budget. Finally, adjust accordingly.

Backyards Are Rarely Blank Canvases: Identify The Immutable Elements

Creating a backyard home theater is a synergistic enterprise. One must consider all the fixed components, from sprinklers, hardscapes, and existing lighting to tripping hazards, before assembling the pieces.

Perhaps you share a fence or large concrete barrier with your neighbor. Maybe, you’ve already installed a built-in fire pit where you would've liked to place your seating. Sometimes there is a low-hanging phone wire, or weeping foliage that overshadows the screen's best positioning. Once these elements are identified and understood, you can begin to consider the placement of the rest.

Existing elements in backyard

Designers Tip

Ensure trees and foliage are properly trimmed to create an unobstructed view. This goes not only for the screen but also for your seated guests.

The Ideal Location for Your Backyard Home Theater

The following will determine your location:


Do you wish your theater environment to be the focal point of your backyard, or will it be an accent feature? Will this be a permanent or temporary setup? Is this a formal viewing experience, or do you wish it to be cozy and casual? How many people do you want to accommodate?

Backyard focal point

Designer's Tip

The size of the anticipated guest list will dictate everything from seating options to screen size.


While considering functionality, some issues may call for adjusting the ideal placement or for purchasing additional equipment. For instance, weather conditions may require seasonal coverage. Proximity to the nearest power source is also something to confirm — you’ll want easy access to this.

Consequently, you may need extra-long extension cords and weatherproof power strips to keep them powered and safe. As well, ensure you have sufficient bandwidth from your router to stream outside. You may need Wi-Fi boosters.

Designer's Tip

Many of today's TVs and screens offer anti-glare and much brighter images. If you get direct sunlight, avoid facing south or west for an optimal daytime viewing experience.

Something Janna found is that neighbors rarely appreciate being bombarded with sound. Therefore, it’s best to position speakers away from their property and not towards a bounce wall. This may influence what type of speakers you choose.

Another challenge Janna encountered was working around a client's loud outdoor air conditioning system. For this client, she wound up redesigning an entirely different viewing configuration. Thanks to RoomSketcher, she was able to solve this functionality challenge without spending unnecessary money to build out.

Designer's Tip

Almost like a game, Janna uses RoomSketcher to play around with different configurations to see if she and her clients can "spot the obstacle" for the best functionality.


Do you want easy access to a kitchen space so that serving your guests refreshments is convenient? Are you providing your viewers with indoor or outdoor bathrooms? How does foot traffic move from seating to the restroom, and will it inconvenience the movie-watching experience?

These are just a few of the questions Janna asks her clients when discussing optimal "flow" in design. Based on answers to foundational questions such as these, one can then consider the possible obstacles to overcome. Only then can one ensure ease of foot traffic and optimal seating.

Flow and zones backyard

Designer's Tip

Functionality often dovetails with the flow, from throw ratio to screen angling. The two form a back-and-forth checklist for the designer or homeowner.

Choose the Best Tech for Your Outdoor Home Theater

Outdoor TVs

Outdoor TVs are ideal for enclosed, partially enclosed, or intimate physical environments. These TVs are heavily protected and have custom housing safeguarding them even from splashing pool water. They're often constructed with temperature-resistant components and anti-glare screens.

Additionally, they provide excellent image quality. Conveniently, outdoor TVs can be wall mounted or placed on an outdoor motorized lift.

Backyard with outdoor TV

Designer's Tip

Make sure to get outdoor-rated components. Avoid indoor cables as they'll rust. If you're going for a permanent installation, keep in mind that a trench may be needed to bury outdoor cables and wires. You can work with an A/V integrator to achieve this.

Outdoor Projectors

Outdoor projectors are as varied as screens. Portable projectors offer flexibility to move around your space. Bear in mind, desired image size will impact screen placement. Again, the throw ratio plays a key role here. For instance, with smaller spaces, you might opt for a projector with a short throw lens, as you need 5 inches to project a 100-foot image.

Regardless of the make or model of your projector, know that all outdoor projectors have analog speaker connections, though most come with Wi-Fi capabilities. This is great for playing your favorite movie warm-up Spotify list or post-viewing dance music.

Backyard home theater with outdoor projector

Outdoor Screens

Outdoor movie screens come in many forms, from inflatable to retractable to fixed. The information in this article will help inform your screen choice. That said, did you know you can project on an exterior wall with special outdoor screen paint? While not always easy to achieve a flawless viewing experience, some clients prefer this method for its unobtrusive quality.

If doing an expensive installation, many installers use custom outdoor LED panels as opposed to outdoor screens. One need not shell out a lot of money for a screen or even go high-tech. Janna once had a client opt for hanging a white sheet to create a down-home effect reminiscent of his childhood. However, if you choose this route, she advises you to hang the sheet as tightly as possible to avoid a rippling effect.

Backyard home theater

Designer's Tip

 If working with an outdoor fixed screen or motorized screen, Janna suggests engaging an AV integrator to find the best solution to fit your needs and budget.

Outdoor Speakers

Outdoor speakers have become increasingly sophisticated over the years. You can now camouflage your speakers within planters and rocks. You can even put your speakers underwater in your pool. As well, the new outdoor soundbars on the market are sleek in design and offer excellent sound quality. You may even consider subwoofers to drive home the sensory experience of bass during scarier-themed movies.

Camouflaged outdoor speakers in backyard

Designer's Tip

 By testing your equipment in advance for technical issues, you can devise a backup plan if needed.

Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor movie lighting can be fun to design. Whether you desire a flair for the dramatic or whimsical, there are many possibilities. Regardless, when it comes to outdoor viewing, one must consider screen glare.

To avoid this, don't illuminate anything that can create a shadow on the screen or TV. For this reason, Janna generally tries to persuade her clients to go for low-output lighting rather than overhead. Another helpful feature is adjustable lighting so you can regulate the brightness level to influence mood.

Outdoor lighting backyard home theater

Designer's Tip

Landscape lighting is an excellent addition for pathways. This is especially helpful when all lights go down for movie time, but guests are still arriving. These low lights won't obstruct the viewing experience and can help prevent accidents.

Outdoor Furniture for Your Backyard Home Theater

Comfortable and inviting furniture is key to creating a pleasant experience for your guests. Offer a variety of seating options that allow for easy eyeline to the screen from multiple angles. Remember to select weather-resistant materials.

Outdoor furniture

Designer's Tip

Marine-grade cabinets can house your TV mount or lift and endure harsh weather conditions.

Extras That Maximize Outdoor Comfort

Lights, Camera, Action!

Creating the ultimate backyard home theater is an exciting endeavor that involves careful planning and attention to detail. By selecting the perfect location, investing in high-quality equipment, and prioritizing your guest's comfort, you can create a memorable experience.

So gather your friends and family, grab some popcorn, and get ready to bring the magic of cinema to your own backyard.

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