While a king-sized white bedsheet works great in a pinch for an outdoor movie night, an actual outdoor movie screen will take your home cinema experience to new heights of image quality and clarity. While outdoor movie screens can be quite an investment, there are thankfully many styles available aside from a permanent fixture. Pop-up screens, pull-down projector screens, and even inflatable movie screens are all great ways to transform your space for birthday parties, events, or even just family nights.
Aside from the style of screen, you need to consider the size that's best for your space. While your space might determine what screen size feels realistic, 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.” With Weinstein's advice in mind, we looked at dozens of outdoor movie screens and considered factors like durability, materials, and available sizes to offer you the best options. Get ready to make your family movie night so much better!
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
Stretching the screen to install it is difficult
The Elite Screens Yard Master 2 is our top overall recommendation thanks to its heavy-duty frame that’s easy to set up and take down. It also has 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.
While this screen may only take around 15 minutes to set up, the screen can be difficult to stretch over the frame. 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.
We recommend the 120-inch Yard Master 2 because it’s an excellent value and sized to fit most yards, but 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.
Price at time of publish: $234
Screen Size: 120 inches (also 55, 58, 75, 90, 100, 110, or 135 inches) | Aspect Ratio: 16:9 or 4:3 | Material: CineWhite UHD-B (PVC) | Gain: 1.3 | Dimensions: 109.8 x 36.7 x 89 inches
Mdbebbron 120-inch Projection Screen
Compact when not in use
Strong mounting grommets
Front or rear projection
Time-consuming to install and take down
The Mdbebbron Projection Screen is cheaper than buying a king-sized sheet, and it’s also durable enough for outdoor use. This polyester screen works for both front and rear projection and folds easily for storage. It is also machine washable if it gets dirty from excessive water exposure.
While we appreciate how easy this screen is to fold and pack away when not in use, a frame would make mounting it slightly easier and ensure there are no wrinkles in the middle of the projection. This 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 you can use 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 without making a huge investment.
Price at time of publish: $36
Screen Size: 120 inches (also 150 inches) | Aspect Ratio: 16:9 | Material: Polyester fabric | Gain: Not listed | Dimensions: 104 x 0.2 x 58 inches
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, a slight upgrade from our best overall pick, is perfect for movie lovers who aren't willing to compromise on image fidelity to do enjoy a night under the stars. 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 compared to Elite Screens’ other Yard Master products. However, this screen's frame 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.
Price at time of publish: $385
Screen Size: 120 inches (also 100, 110, 135, 145, 150, 180, and 200 inches) | Aspect Ratio: 16:9 | Material: CineWhite UHD-B (PVC) | Gain: 1.3 | Dimensions: 110.4 x 48.9 x 127.2 inches
Best for Wind
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
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—such as light from outdoor string lights—shining from behind, so we recommend either using it in a rear projection setup or placing it against a wall to block ambient light.
Price at time of publish: $155
Screen Size: 120 inches (also 100 inches) | Aspect Ratio: 16:9 | Material: Nylon | Gain: Not listed | Dimensions: 102 x 92 inches
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
The Khomo Gear Jumbo Inflatable Projector Screen is a massive 20-foot inflatable 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. 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.
This 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 all out for your outdoor movie nights, this screen would be a hit.
Price at time of publish: $220
Screen Size: 20 feet (also 16 feet) | Aspect Ratio: 16:9 | Material: Not listed | Gain: Not listed | Dimensions: 16 x 6.5 x 10.5 feet
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
Harder to put away than it is to set up
The Elite Screens Pop-Up Cinema is a great screen to pack for camping or to bring to a friend's backyard. This screen is super lightweight, can be collapsed for easy transport in the included carrying case, and can also be set 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.
Elite Screens uses a trademarked 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. We will note the screen tends to wrinkle very easily, and putting it away is an exacting process of twisting and turning the frame. It may take some time to master the ideal storage process. We recommend familiarizing yourself with the process, so you don’t end up fumbling in the dark after a late-night outdoor viewing.
Price at time of publish: $80
Screen Size: 84 inches (also 92 inches) | Aspect Ratio: 16:9 | Material: SilkWhite synthetic fabric | Gain: 1.0 | Dimensions: 81.1 x 28.9 x 72.7 inches
Best Pull-Down Projector Screen
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
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 being exposed to the elements. While the housing protects the screen when it isn’t in use, it feels a bit on the flimsy side—so we recommend mounting it permanently to avoid bending it. It has three mounting options, so you're sure to find a configuration that works well with your space. You can also feel good about this screen's MaxWhite 2 material, which has a 1.1 gain that’s great for color clarity and is also 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 (the ratio of the screen's width to height). 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.
Price at time of publish: $84
Screen Size: 100 inches (also 80, 100, 120, 125, 135 inches) | Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (also 1:1, 4:3) | Material: MaxWhite 2 | Gain: 1.1 | Dimensions: 89.4 x 59.9 inches
Vamvo 100 inch Portable Foldable Projection Screen
Internal elastic rope allows easy assembly
Easily portable with included case
One person can set it up
Shorter stand legs
Stand is unstable in wind
The portable and foldable Vamvo 120-inch Projector Screen may look a lot like the other self-supported screens on our list, 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 tripod legs aren't stable in the wind, but four sections of rope and a number of ground stakes are included in this screen's kit to help secure everything.
Price at time of publish: $101
Screen Size: 120 inches (also 80 and 100 inches) | Aspect Ratio: 16:9 | Material: Polyester fabric | Gain: Not listed | Dimensions: 107 x 70.9 inches
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.
Asher Weinstein of ProjectorScreen.com 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," Weinstein says. "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.
“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. You then multiply that resulting number by the gain of the screen. The formula should be as follows: (Lumens / Screen Area) x Screen Gain = Foot-lamberts.
You can use the foot-lamberts to tell how good the projection will look in varying levels of light. Indoor setups can usually suffice 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.”
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. There are two key terms you should consider in the realm of a screen's overall size and picture quality: throw ratio and aspect ratio.
- Throw Ratio: This ratio determines the distance that your projector should sit away from your screen. Likewise, your screen's width also determines the throw ratio you need. Each projector model has a different throw ratio. Before purchasing your outdoor movie screen, you should confirm the throw ratio of your projector to ensure you purchase a screen that is large enough. You can use this formula to help determine the distance your project will have to be situated: throw ratio x screen width = distance.
- Aspect Ratio: This is the ratio of an image's height compared to its width. When you purchase an outdoor movie screen, it should list the aspect ratio among other purchasing specs. 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.
You should also think about the size of your backyard or outdoor space before purchasing a large outdoor screen. 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—or per foot of space that you have available. 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.
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. As mentioned above, a projector's throw ratio is going to determine the distance you'll need to properly project on any given screen size. If you're looking for the best picture quality possible, be sure to pair an HD or 4K projector with an appropriate screen.
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. Alternatively, you could find a more powerful 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 you can 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 of 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.
Emma Phelps, an associate editor for The Spruce, updated this article to review the selected products and provide more purchasing information on outdoor movie screens.