Backyard movie theaters boom in coronavirus

COVID-19 pandemic has boosted demand for outdoor movie nights

It’s the summer of outdoor movie screenings.

While movie theaters are closed across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, the big screen is nonetheless having a moment, thanks to the resurgence of drive-in movie theaters and household screenings as Americans invest in at-home entertainment accessories like projectors and inflatable cinemas.

More families are investing in outdoor entertainment accessories with movie theaters closed during the coronavirus pandemic. (iStock)

AMC, the world’s largest movie theater chain, announced last week it’s delaying the opening of most locations until mid-to-late August. And that’s bad news for the overall industry's bottom line -- analysts estimate 2021 box offices will fall 20 percent below 2019 levels, when global revenue was at $42.5 billion and $11.4 billion domestically, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

In the age of COVID-19, the movie business joins a number of others, like restaurants and fitness studios, that have been forced to pivot to outdoor models. Now, drive-ins nationwide have started operating under similar guidance as outdoor recreational activities with throwback classics like "Dirty Dancing" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." And movie critics say the comradery of watching a film with neighbors and friends after months of being in lockdown is what Americans are craving most.

A view outside AMC 34th Street 14 movie theater during the coronavirus pandemic. (Noam Galai/Getty Images)

"The renaissance of drive-ins is something that nobody could have predicted. But nobody really knew that we needed it that badly," Joe Neumaier, a film critic for the 710AM-WOR MovieMinute, told FOX Business Tuesday. "It makes the communal experience of movie-going even more special. To sit with strangers in the dark and watch stories projected is the magic of movies."

To be sure, sales of outdoor recreation and entertainment goods have increased throughout the spring and summer, Molly Parker, the vice president of category experience, said in an email.

"I think that right now we are all trying to maintain a sense of normalcy and getting outside to enjoy the fresh air with the family feels normal,” she said.


Kodak’s Ultra Mini Portable Projector ($183) features a 3-inch-by-3-inch-by-0.8-inch projector that’s lightweight and easily stored for summer travel. The device is compatible with your laptop or phone and projects a 1080pm picture. Movies can be cast on a wall, sheet or inflatable screen for best viewing.


Inflatable mega movie screens

This 16-foot-tall Jumbo Inflatable Outdoor Projector Screen available at Walmart can be assembled and ready for screening in less than five minutes. It comes with an electric blower for easy inflating. ($217).


While projectors are equipped with speakers to get that real “just like the movies” feel, you may want to invest in a soundbar, like the IZIO SB2920-C6 29-Inch 2-Channel ($79, Amazon) for added effect, particularly if you're showing a film to a bigger socially distanced group.