By Michael Harris-Arzon, The Simplistic Professional
When I was a kid, just the fact that you were having a birthday party was good enough. And if, alongside the food and drinks, there happened to be some balloons and decorations then your party was a hit.
Now, thanks to shows like My Sweet Sixteen, we are playing the age old game of ‘Keeping Up With The Joneses’ or Kardashians, as the case may be.
I have planned many parties over the years and unlike most people, I actually like the planning and decorating part of hosting a party. So for me, it was never trying to out-do someone else, but creating an experience that my guests would remember. I got into the theme aspect of parties when I used to do a lot of charity work and I found that a themed party raises a lot more money than a nice black-tie event.
Having a theme doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. I will confess, that at times I spent a lot more money than needed to create that unforgettable experience. But as our family grew and my time became more precious, I had to learn to budget time and money (we went from two birthday parties a year to five birthdays, overnight). Thus I got more creative and started using Pinterest, blogs and magazines for ideas.
This year, we decided to combine the kids birthdays and do a huge party for friends, family and classmates (I always invite every child from the kids classes so that no one feels left out). That means well over 125 people will be coming and there is no way that it was going to take place inside the house. So I had to think about what would be entertaining and work well outdoors.
While talking with the kids about what they wanted to do during the party, our eldest daughter Onyx mentioned watching a movie once it got dark. You see, we had gotten a 3D Movie Projector last year for Christmas and now did our weekly, family movie nights on the big screen. So why not set up the screen outdoors she asked? Immediately ideas started flowing.
I know, most of you are saying, “But I don’t have a movie projector!” and there are a number of ways to handle this. If you have the budget, a projector TV can be had for around $500 or so. But, all of you professionals should check with your office manager, as most companies have projectors for presentations and would probably let you borrow it for the night in exchange for an invite to the party. And while we bought a roll up screen for under $100 to use (and built a simple frame out of PVC piping,) a crisp, white kingsize bed sheet works perfectly well.
As to playing the movie, there are a number of options. Like we plan to do, you can connect your Apple TV or Roku to the projector, use a laptop to play a DVD or use a SD card/ USB Stick with a digital copy of your movie on it (our projector has a SD card and USB slot both.) Then connect speakers for sound. Everyone seems have a suite of Bluetooth speakers these days, that are ideal for spreading sound through out your yard.
For lighting effects use white, Christmas lights for that “twinkle” effect, combined with the solar lights that most people have around their property. If you don’t have solar lights, you can buy a package of 12 solar lights for under $10 at Walmart and you would be amazed at much ambiance is created by 2 dozen solar lights. Just be sure to put them out a few days in advance to charge.
For seating I suggest the use of picnic blankets and white bedsheets (I recommend white so that they can be bleached afterwards) on the ground, with what ever throw pillows you have around the house for comfort. Combined with whatever outdoor seating you currently have and you can create a number of cozy spaces to watch the movie from.
For decorations, tie 2 yellow and 1 white balloon together and make your own popcorn kernel. These can be hung by streamers, from tree branches in groups or place a few ‘kernels’ together coming out of a white packing box that you have striped with red duct tape to make look like a giant box of popcorn.
If you want to go all out with the movie theme, then maybe you should consider having a ‘stand and repeat’ with red carpet and velvet ropes for people to take selfies at. At most of the big box stores you can buy masks and little designs that are on sticks to hold up to your face as you take selfies. Kids love these and would be perfect in a bowl on a small table at the beginning of your red carpet (w few yards of red material from the material section at Walmart works perfectly). The stand and repeat can have your name on it, a custom hashtag (for people to tag their photos with as they post to social media) and maybe the date of the party or company logo and can be printed by any online printer for about $25-$50. Just be sure to order a week or two in advance.
For the food, serve what you would have found in an old drive-in movie theater concession stands. Things like sodas, nachos, hotdogs, hamburgers, popcorn and a variety of movie theater candies. To make it look nice I recommend having three tables. One for the actual food, another where you set up a candy bar with about 10-15 different types of candy and the third is a popcorn station. With the popcorn station you can easily rent a full size popcorn machine (stripped bags can be bought at Target or Walmart) from any party rental place. They will deliver it and it costs about $50 a day. If you want something of your own, then they can be bought online, at Target or Walmart for well under $100 and look great on any counter in your kitchen.
These are just the basics you need to think about in order to pull off a successful Drive-In Movie themed party. Use your imagination and childhood memories to create an experience of a lifetime.
Anyway, you get the idea and people will remember the time they watched a drive-in movie at your house and had the time of their lives!