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Just about any flat surface can serve as a makeshift projection screen when you’re looking for a quick nighttime activity for the kids, but an actual outdoor movie screen will take your home cinema experience to new heights of image quality and clarity.
When considering the screen size, Asher Weinstein of ProjectorScreen.com recommends you don’t go too small. “You’ll want to get a screen that’s at least 100 inches diagonal,” says Weinstein. “This will give you the cinematic feel that you’re hoping for.”
We looked at dozens of screens and considered factors like durability, screen materials, and available screen sizes to bring you all of the best options. Our top recommendation, the 120-inch Elite Screens Yard Master 2, features a durable screen that offers a bright picture, a heavy-duty frame that one person can set up by themself in about 15 minutes, and it’s also available in a wide variety of other size options.
Here are the best outdoor movie screens.
Best Overall: Elite Screens OMS120H2 Yard Master 2 Outdoor Folding-Frame Projection Screen
Durable, wrinkle-free screen
Screen cleans easily with soap and water
Fast setup and teardown
No height adjustment
Screen must be removed when folding frame
Stretching the screen to install it is difficult
What do buyers say? 92% of 2,700+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
The Elite Screens Yard Master 2 is our top overall recommendation for its heavy-duty frame that’s easy to set up and take down and excellent picture quality without sacrificing durability.
Every version of the Yard Master 2 comes with a screen made of the same CineWhite UHD-B, a rugged PVC material that’s strong enough to stand up to outdoor use while still displaying fantastic image quality and color accuracy. The 1.3 gain (a measure of reflectivity) even lets you use a bigger screen than you might have expected your projector would be able to handle, as it’s nearly 30 percent more reflective than a standard 1.0 gain screen.
Yard Master 2 owners suggest that it only takes about 15 minutes to set up, but some report difficulty stretching the screen on the initial installation. Both the frame and screen are durable enough to stay outside, but both pieces will last a lot longer if you take them inside in between viewings. If you have space in your home for the assembled frame, the legs fold up in seconds for flat storage. However, note that you have to remove the screen for safe stowing of the frame.
While we recommend the 120-inch Yard Master 2 because it’s an excellent value and sized to fit most yards, you can also get this screen in sizes that vary between a modest 58 inches if you’re tight on space and a massive 135 inches if you have more room to spread out.
Best Budget: Mdbebbron 120-inch Projection Screen
Compact when not in use
Strong mounting grommets
Front or rear projection
Mounting hardware doesn’t work well
Time consuming to install and take down
If you’re working on a shoestring budget, any white sheet with a high thread count will serve as an upgrade over just aiming your projector at your garage door or the side of your house. The Mdbebbron Projection Screen is cheaper than buying new sheets, though, and it’s also durable enough for outdoor use and works for both front and rear projection. The polyester screen folds easily for storage and is also machine washable if it gets dirty.
Part of the reason this screen is so affordable is that it doesn’t come with a frame. The screen has a border of a rugged black material set with heavy-duty metal grommets. It comes with plastic mounting hooks and rope that you can use to mount it to an exterior wall or tie it up, or you can provide your own nails for a sturdier installation. Getting this screen set up takes a little extra work and ingenuity, but you can’t beat the value. This screen is a great choice for parents looking to set up an outdoor movie night for the kids without a huge investment or for anyone who wants an easy-to-transport, inexpensive screen.
Best Splurge: Elite Screens Yard Master Plus OMS120H2PLUS Portable Indoor/Outdoor Folding Frame Projection Screen
Good for 4K UHD
Durable sealed-edge frame
Adjustable legs to change height
Heavy and cumbersome
Rear projection requires a second screen
The Yard Master Plus is for the cinephile who yearns to enjoy films out under the stars but isn’t willing to compromise on image fidelity to do it. We recommend the 120-inch model for its wide applications, but this screen is also available in sizes that range from 57 inches for intimate outdoor spaces to 200 inches for those looking to create an immersive backyard cinematic experience.
This screen comes with a durable sealed-edge frame that’s strong enough to withstand the elements, but it’s also heavy, so it’s a bit more difficult to set up and move around than Elite Screens’ other Yard Master products. However, the legs are adjustable, allowing you to set up the perfect viewing angle. The CineWhite screen is also suitable for 4K content, so break out your ultra high definition (UHD) Blu-rays and send out invites to all your fellow film enthusiasts.
Best Mounted: Epson Duet ELPSC80 Ultra Portable Projection Screen
Tripod or wall-mount
Adjustable aspect ratio
Folds into integrated carrying case
Tripod mount is unstable in wind
Imparts a slight blue tint
Only one size choice
The Epson Duet utilizes a unique mounting system that allows you to hang it on a wall and take it down quickly. That makes it perfect for outdoor use since you can use it in the yard when the weather permits and take it inside when conditions turn nasty. The screen comes with a mounting bracket that you permanently attach to a wall with screws. With the bracket in place, you can hang the screen and take it down with the same effort as lifting a picture frame off its hook.
This screen has a built-in tripod mount in addition to the wall mount. This functionality gives it a great deal of flexibility for both indoor and outdoor use. While it's available in only one maximum screen size, the Duet offers two screen sizes in one. In addition to the 80-inch size, you can set the screen to 65 inches for a 4:3 aspect ratio if needed. Alternatively, if you lift it off the wall mount, you can extend the built-in tripod and set it up on the floor or a tabletop. It isn't very stable in the wind, but this screen does work well in that configuration if you have a protected outdoor area or use it indoors.
Best Inflatable: Insignia 114-inch Outdoor Projector Screen
Easy setup for one person
Screen doesn’t lay flat
Screen has to be mounted after inflation
The Insignia 114-inch Outdoor Projection Screen is perfect for backyard movie nights on short notice. This inflatable movie screen works more like a bounce house than a traditional inflatable, with a rugged, lightweight fabric construction and a built-in blower that fully inflates it within seconds. The blower does have to remain on to keep it inflated, but it’s quiet enough that you’re unlikely to notice it once the movie starts.
This projector screen is right in the sweet spot of sizes, with enough real estate to provide a cinematic experience while remaining small enough to work in most yards. The screen is prone to wrinkles, and the inflatable frame doesn’t exert enough pressure to stretch it tight, so rolling it up for storage yields better results than folding it. You will have to fold it if you want to use the convenient carrying case, though, making it easy to pack up and take with you wherever you need it.
Best Lightweight: Khomo Gear White Portable Folding Frame Projection Screen
Frame stretches screen to remove wrinkles
Front and rear projection
Unstable without tie-downs
Nylon screen requires a very dark environment
Can’t stand up to any light from behind
Big outdoor movie screens tend to be heavy and difficult for one person to set up and move around, but that doesn't mean you have to settle for a small screen if you don't have anyone to help. The Khomo Gear Portable Projection Screen is remarkably lightweight at less than 12 pounds, easy to set up, and isn't difficult to move around at all, even if you're working by yourself. It's so lightweight that it's actually a little unstable, but it comes with stakes and tie-downs you can use to secure it in place even if the wind starts blowing.
This screen features a lightweight freestanding frame that leverages tension rods to stretch the screen tight and remove wrinkles. The screen's robust nylon material is thin enough to support both front and rear projection. However, it doesn't do well in front projection situations if there's any ambient light shining from behind, so either use it in a rear projection setup or place it against a wall to block ambient light.
Best Large: Khomo Gear Jumbo Inflatable Projector Screen
Screen attaches with Velcro
Front and rear projection
Doesn’t handle ambient light well
The included tie-down spikes are inadequate
Some units have a visible seam on the screen
Do you have a huge backyard and super-bright projector and need a screen to match? The Khomo Gear Jumbo is a massive 20-foot inflatable projector screen, and it’s purpose-built to provide an immersive cinematic experience right in your own backyard. The bright white screen attaches semi-permanently to the frame with Velcro, so setup is even easier than most inflatables: Just plug in the blower, wait for it to inflate, and then secure the tie-downs. However, even with the spikes in place, this screen could be unstable, depending on the weather, so be mindful of windy days. The screen remains attached during storage, so it’s ready to go as soon as it finishes inflating.
The screen's spandex-like material is thin enough to support both front and rear projection. It works best with rear projection due to the thinness of the material, as it isn’t very reflective. The thin material also allows it to work with projectors that aren’t quite up to the task of illuminating a screen this size. If you have the hardware (more substantial spikes) and space to really go big, this screen will get you there.
Best Portable: Elite Screens POP84H Pop-Up Cinema Portable Spring-Framed Projection Screen
Quick and easy setup
Compact case is easy to carry
Front or rear projection
Screen is very thin
Harder to put away than it is to set up
The Elite Screens Pop-Up Cinema is the best screen if backyard movie night isn’t always in your own backyard. This screen is super lightweight, collapses for easy transport in the included carrying case, and sets up very quickly. The screen itself pops open on its own, and then you complete the setup by putting together the base and attaching the screen. Whether you’re putting on a movie night at a friend’s house, camping trip, or just about anywhere else, the Pop-Up Cinema makes it easy.
Elite Screens uses their SilkWhite material for the screen, which is a white synthetic fabric with a 1.0 gain. That base level of reflectivity is pretty good, considering that this screen works with both front and rear projection. The only significant drawbacks are that the screen tends to wrinkle very easily, and putting it away is an exacting process of twisting and turning the frame that takes some time to figure out. Make sure to practice it at home, so you don’t end up fumbling in the dark after a late-night outdoor movie viewing.
Best Setup: Vamvo Outdoor/Indoor Projector Screen with Stand
Pieces held together with rope for easy assembly
Easily portable with included case
One person can set it up
Stand legs on the short side
Screen comes wrinkled
Stand is unstable in wind
The portable and foldable Vamvo 120-inch Projector Screen looks a lot like other self-supported screens at first glance, but its setup process is a game changer. The frame consists of individual sections that have an internal elastic rope running through them, so they look and work a lot like tent poles. There’s no confusion about which piece connects to which because they’re connected by the rope, so the frame automatically takes shape as you snap each piece into its neighbor.
The screen itself is a durable polyester fabric that attaches to the frame with Velcro for easy setup and teardown. The frame stands on two tripod legs that aren’t adjustable, so you can’t set a custom height for the screen, but they do snap into place quickly. The other issue with the tripod legs is that they aren’t terribly stable in the wind, but Vamvo provides four sections of rope and a number of ground stakes to help you secure the screen.
Best Retractable: Elite Screens M100H Manual Pull-Down Projector Screen
Screen locks at 2- to 4-inch intervals
Three mounting options
Doesn’t work well with short-throw projectors
Housing feels flimsy
Lock mechanism is touchy
If you have a protected outdoor area where you can hang a screen, the Elite Screens M100H Manual 100-inch Pull-Down Projector Screen is an excellent option. It’s manual, so there are no electronics to worry about exposing to the elements. While the housing protects the screen when it isn’t in use, it feels a bit on the flimsy side—so it’s best to mount it permanently to avoid bending it. It has three mounting options, though, so at least one is likely to work well with your space. You can also feel good about the MaxWhite 2 material, which has a 1.1 gain that’s great for color clarity and is mildew-resistant.
In addition to the 100-inch version, the Manual B Series is also available in sizes that range between 80 and 135 inches and in both 1:1 and 4:3 aspect ratios. We typically recommend 16:9 projector screens, but it’s worth considering a slightly bigger 4:3 ratio if you watch a mix of 4:3 and 16:9 content. The screen locks at 2- to 4-inch intervals when you pull it down, so you can easily configure a standard screen to display widescreen content when necessary.
The Elite Screens Yard Master 2 is our top overall recommendation for the best outdoor movie screen because it’s easy to set up, exceedingly durable, and offers great picture quality. It’s the perfect screen for watching sporting events, setting up a backyard movie night, or just about anything else. If you’re after something more cinematic and have a big enough yard, consider the Khomo Gear Jumbo Inflatable Projector Screen. This 20-foot monster is a breeze to set up thanks to its built-in blower, perfectly suited for inviting the whole neighborhood to movie night.
What to Look For in Outdoor Movie Screens
Most outdoor movie screens use some type of rugged PVC material or a synthetic fabric like polyester for the projection surface. These are both good options, but PVC materials stand up better to the elements, and you can clean them with soap and water if they get dirty or iron them to reduce wrinkles.
Weinstein warns that the material's texture can affect the picture quality. "Unless you have a gigantic budget, there are no affordable outdoor projector screens that can resolve a true 4K image. The best you'll be able to find is a 1080p screen. These near-textureless screens would be good enough for most outdoor movie theaters."
The color of the screen material is also important because it affects the picture quality. "You'll likely want to get a white screen that will give you a brighter image while sacrificing the black levels you'd get from a gray projector screen," says Weinstein.
The American National Standards Institute rates projector brightness in ANSI Lumens. This number and the size of the screen are what determine the brightness of the picture projected on your screen. Smaller screens result in brighter pictures, while a larger screen with the same ANSI Lumens will have to spread it out over a larger area and yield a picture that isn’t as bright.
Aside from its size, a screen’s gain (how reflective it is) also impacts the brightness of the projected image. A standard, highly reflective screen has a gain of 1, while brighter screens have higher numbers. The higher the gain, the brighter the perceived image. For example, a screen with a 1.3 gain will appear 30 percent brighter than a screen with a gain of 1. The catch is that higher gain screens also have narrower viewing angles.
The best thing about watching movies outdoors is that you don't have the same screen size constraints that you run into indoors. Outdoor screens range from 80 inches to over 20 feet, but it's important to remember you're limited by the brightness of your projector and the size of your outdoor space.
For a middle-of-the-theater experience, consider picking a screen with about 10 inches of diagonal screen size per foot that you plan on sitting away from the screen. So for a 10-foot screen, you'd want to be able to sit 12 feet away. For a 20-foot screen, you'd want to be able to sit about 24 feet away for the best experience.
If you don't have a specific reason to do otherwise, you should select a screen that has a 16:9 aspect ratio. That's the aspect ratio of high-definition (HD) television, and it's also pretty close to the aspect ratio of movies, so it's likely to match most of the content you watch.
Can outdoor movie screens be paired with any projector?
Some projectors are better suited to outdoor use than others, but you can pair any projector with an outdoor movie screen as long as that screen isn’t too big for the projector. That means you can use a projector you already have, but only if you select a screen of a particular size to provide the best viewing experience.
“There are three aspects you’ll need to know to figure out if your projected image will be bright enough,” says Weinstein. “The projector’s lumens, the size of the screen, and the gain of the screen. Together, these make up the system’s foot-lamberts.”
The calculation works by dividing the lumens of your projector by the area of the screen in square feet and then multiplying that number by the gain of the screen. That yields the foot-lamberts, which you can use to tell how good the projection will look in varying levels of light.
Indoor setups can usually work well with lower foot-lamberts, but outdoor systems usually have to deal with ambient light even after the sun goes down. “For an outdoor projector setup, you’ll want to have at least 40 foot-lamberts,” advises Weinstein. “However, you ideally want to have over 60 foot-lamberts.”
How big of an outdoor movie screen should I get?
You might be tempted to get the biggest screen that will fit in your backyard, but bigger screens require brighter projectors. If you already have your projector, you can use its lumens output to determine the biggest screen that will work, or you can work backward from the size of your ideal screen to figure out what projector you need to buy.
To determine the size of the largest screen that will work with your projector, divide the projector’s ANSI Lumens by the desired foot-lambert total. It will work if the area of the screen you want, in square feet, is smaller than the number you calculated. If it’s bigger, the picture may not be bright enough.
For example, let’s say your projector outputs 2000 ANSI Lumens, and you’re aiming for 60 foot-lamberts for a nice bright picture. You would divide 2000 by 60 and see that your screen could be up to 33.33 square feet. A 100-inch screen has an area of 29.6 square feet, so that would be just about the biggest screen you would want. You could select a bigger screen if you’re okay with a picture that isn’t as bright and clear or find a bigger projector.
How do you assemble an outdoor movie screen?
There are a lot of outdoor movie screen designs, and they're all assembled differently. The most basic screens don't have frames. They're lined with grommets instead, and you either mount the screen to a frame you build yourself or tie it to your house, two conveniently placed trees, or any other sturdy object. This type of screen is easiest to install if you have an extra set of hands to hold it in place while you tie it down.
Most screens come with a frame that you snap or bolt together and then secure in some way to keep it from blowing away. You then attach the screen to the frame using snaps, rope, or Velcro straps. This style isn't that difficult to assemble, but the bigger ones are much easier to put together with two or more people.
Mounted outdoor movie screens are either permanently or temporarily mounted or hung on a wall. You can mount the screen permanently if you have a protected outdoor area. Otherwise, you want to install hooks or other mounting hardware on the wall that allows you to hang the screen temporarily and then remove it to store it inside.
Inflatable screens come with built-in blowers, so assembly is typically just a matter of plugging the blower into power and securing the screen with tie-downs, so it doesn't blow away. These models are usually the easiest to set up because they tend to stand up independently as they inflate.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Jeremy Laukkonen, a freelance writer and product tester for The Spruce. He’s been running backyard movie nights at his own home for years and has over a decade of experience reviewing electronics for outlets like Lifewire and Digital Trends, in addition to the Spruce.
To get a better grasp on the latest developments in outdoor movie screens and what to look for, Laukkonen contacted Asher Weinstein, the director of e-commerce and marketing at Next Projection/ProjectorScreen.com. With Weinstein’s expert insight, Laukkonen looked at factors like screen materials, durability, and portability along with ease of setup and use. Size was another important concern since the size of your outdoor projector screen is limited by the output of your projector.