Best Material for Outdoor Movie Screens

Steve Scott

If you plan to watch an outdoor movie in your backyard, there is a variety of options when it comes to the material the screen is made from.

Depending on whether the projector you use is a front projector or a rear projector, you have to choose the best projector screen accordingly.

Generally, permanent setups work better for rear projection while a temporary setup is widely used for front project.

A simple way to create an outdoor projection screen is to paint your backyard wall with projector screen paint. This is similar to house paint but it allows for a high contrast display for projection.

As weather can worsen the paint, it makes reapplication a regular job. This is why you should make your outdoor movie screen from materials suitable to your needs.

Here’s an overview of the best materials that are used for outdoor movie screens:

For more info on picking the best outdoor setup, please check our guides:


Outdoor Fabrics and Tyvek


Outdoor fabric is an inexpensive option and yet is quite durable. Its durability makes it perfect for an outdoor screen, though the material itself isn’t projector-specific.

The off-white outdoor fabric is easily available on the market. A variant of this fabric, Tyvek, is also an alternative, which is tougher than blackout cloth as well as other types of fabrics.

It is lightweight, water-resistant and flexible, no wonder it is a popular material for outdoor movie screens.

Blackout Cloth


Blackout cloth should be your material of choice if you want a flat screen that remains stable. This material is more commonly used in home theaters as it resembles movie theater cloth. It can easily be cut to desirable lengths.

Tarpaulins and Billboard Tarps

Tarpaulins and Billboard Tarps

Billboard tarps offer a large white vinyl area on which the movie will be projected. However, the shiny texture of the material may not work outdoors.

On the other hand, it works well for large projection setups while smaller tarps can also be used as an economical alternative.

Apart from that, you can use white or off-white tarpaulin even though the thickness of the fibers and the uneven surface do not guarantee a fine picture quality.

Tarpaulins and billboard tarps are not the perfect options for an outdoor movie screen if you are using a high-end projector that delivers HD picture quality.

But if you are on a tight budget, you should consider these materials.



Trapeze is a high quality and relatively expensive material that is particularly designed for outdoor setups which feature rear projection.

It is guaranteed to offer excellent picture quality for a highly entertaining movie night in your backyard.


image of Spandex wide projector screen in a movie theater

Spandex is one of the most interesting materials used in rear project outdoor screens. It can make up a great portable setup.

As the spandex needs to be stretched out extensively, the frames used for holding this material should be strong.

Although these materials are great for building an outdoor movie screen, the most popular outdoor movie screens are inflatable. Let’s see how these are the most convenient setups for your outdoor movie:

Best Inflatable Movie Setups

They can cater to both front and rear projection and are available in a variety of sizes and shapes.

Big setups are ideal for large groups of people and can guarantee a memorable movie night if you have a spacious backyard. The setup is convenient and only takes you a few minutes.

All you need is a pump to inflate it and a hammer to fix the stakes into the ground. Being portable, they can be packed again and can be taken anywhere you go, without much effort.

Some inflatable screens are small enough for a backyard movie and offer easy installation and transportation.

The manageability of the screens allows them to be popular choices for thousands of people and this is why an extensive product range of inflatable screens is available on Amazon and eBay.

Advantages of Inflatable Setups

A great advantage of the inflatable screen is undeniably its set-up and tear-down time. It takes less than an hour to set up small screens, whereas, larger screens may take up not more than a few hours.

You can easily set up a small screen in less than 60 minutes, and even if you get a large screen, it won’t take you more than a couple of hours to set it up.

The inflatable technology has been delivering great performance with a low equipment failure rate. Outdoor movie screens made from PVC pipes can take some time and skills to assemble and are not the easiest to carry.

Moreover, a screen made out of a large fabric can be like a sail in extreme weather conditions and get easily damaged.

The last thing you would want on your movie night is mal-functioning equipment.

It will obviously ruin the mood and might deter you from ever trying to set up an outdoor movie experience again.

One great advantage of modern inflatable setups is that the blower noise is reduced and does not distract you from the movie experience.

In fact, you can easily find a blower-less inflatable movie screen on the market. It all depends on the screen size you are looking for.

Even blower-less screens remain inflated for a considerably longer period. With high quality equipment, you can also place damper boxes to reduce blower noise.

In Conclusion

So, as you can see, there are a number of materials you can use for creating a top quality outdoor movie screen. While screens made from certain materials are easy to set up, other materials are more durable and last longer.

Therefore, you have to pay careful consideration to the choice of material.

You don’t want a movie screen that keeps swaying in the wind or a fabric that is attached to a loose or broken frame.

Invest in a good movie screen or rent it to enjoy a great outdoor movie night in your backyard with your friends and family.

My name is Steve Scott. Father of 2 and owner of Outdoor Movie HQ. I’ve been involved in the A/V industry for most of my life and built this blog to help people better understand projector technology. Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

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