With movie theaters across the country closing, some of them permanently, the pleasure of watching a movie on the big screen is hard to find. You can visit a drive-in, but they are few and far between, and it can be difficult to get a position you like. Plus, sitting in your car just doesn’t have the same feel as sitting in a plush recliner, sipping a soda, and eating popcorn.
If you want to re-create the feel of the theater, without putting yourself at risk, one option is renting a projection screen. Screens vary in size and can be set up anywhere from a back yard to a public park. You can set up a movie screening, just so long as you plan it properly. Here are our top tips for renting a screen and hosting a movie screening.
Learn Local Laws
The first thing you want to do is check with your municipality to see if there are any local laws and regulations you should be concerned with. This shouldn’t take much more than a call to your local clerk’s office.
In general, there are no real laws against setting up an inflatable screen for a movie night. However, you may need to consider adjacent laws. For example, screening a movie later in the evening can run into noise ordinances. If your screen is large enough and public enough, you may need to worry about showing R-rated films in front of the children. A large enough screen may need additional safety precautions as well.
If you’re choosing a public venue, such as a city park, to host your movie night, you will want to make sure you have permission to do so. You may need to pay a fee and schedule your screening in advance, depending on who controls the park and what their rules are for its use.
Obey Screening Laws
One of the largest issues you may run into with a movie screening is legality. Every film has that big FBI warning at the start, talking about how unauthorized reproduction of the film is theft. The MPAA is known for cracking down on all manner of movie abuses.
A private screening of a movie to a few friends and family members in your back yard is likely safe. Setting up a 50-foot inflatable screen so the whole neighborhood can watch the latest Disney film from seats in the public park? That’s going to run afoul of laws against unauthorized reproduction.
The solution is to license a screening of the film. Some rental companies provide the licensing to do so. Others simply provide the screen and let you work out the rest. If you’re doing it yourself, you’ll want to investigate companies like the Motion Picture Licensing Company. We wrote another article on this topic here, where you can see more information on licensing specifics.
Determine Your Location
Picking a venue will determine several things about your movie night. As mentioned above, you need to be aware of the kinds of people who can see your screen, even if they’re not attending the screening. You should avoid showing age-inappropriate movies in a location where children can watch, right?
Your location will help determine the size of the screen you can rent. You should probably sit a distance away from your screen, so the larger the screen, the more space you need. A back yard can support a small projector screen, while a larger venue can support a larger inflatable screen.
Your venue will need some kind of power. In addition to powering your projector and sound system, you’ll also need to power the blowers that keep an inflatable screen inflated. Generators can do the job (though they’re noisy) but you need to know you need them before the day of the screening.
Also, make sure your venue will be open and available after sundown. You can’t screen a movie in the glare of the sun; the best time to watch is shortly after sunset. Occasionally we’ve seen people fail to book a public venue and find themselves evicted mid-movie.
Pick a Local Rental Company
We here at Jumper Bee are a great option for a local screen rental in the Collin County area, including the cities of Allen, Frisco, Parker, Plano, Rockwall, Rowlett, Royse City, and Wylie. Even if we’re not your choice of the rental company, we highly recommend that you pick a local company.
Why? There are plenty of companies with a multi-state or national presence, but they have a lot of issues. For one thing, they can have quite a delay on how long it takes them to ship you a screen. You likely have to set up everything on your own, whereas a local company can send someone by the same day, trained to set up and tear down the screen quickly and easily. Plus, it’s often quite a bit more expensive to rent from a company that isn’t local, because of the shipping and rates they offer.
On top of that, renting local means supporting local businesses, putting more money into the local economy, and helping to keep your neighbors afloat. Who doesn’t want to enjoy a movie and some civic responsibility at the same time?
Decide on Attendance
Picking the attendance for your movie night will determine a lot of additional things about your setup.
We’ll get into some of these in a minute.
Do you want a small screening for your immediate family and a friend or two? Wonderful! A small venue with a small screen is perfect for you.
- Do you want a bit of a larger screening with more friends and family gathering to hang out? You’ll need a slightly larger space, especially if you’re adhering to social distancing rules. You may also want some additional features, like a better sound system and professional concessions. A popcorn machine is way better than having to spend two hours throwing bags in the microwave.
- Do you want a large screening for your neighborhood, to raise spirits and give back to the community in these trying times? A large public venue is best, and a huge screen is available for just such an occasion. You’ll need more professional-level concessions and plenty of seating, and you might consider additional sound systems to help make sure everyone can hear the film as well as see it.
Be aware that, depending on the time you’re reading this, there may be limits on gatherings in your area. Check with your local government to see what rules are in effect.
Pick a Screen Size and Type
When you know the size of your party and the venue, you can pick a screen size. Rentable projector screens range from the size of a classroom whiteboard to massive 50-foot or larger inflatable screens. You want to pick a screen that can fit in your venue and your location, without being too large.
Small screens are often metal frames with fabric or plastic stretched across them. These do not require power or blowers to set up or keep set up throughout your screening, but larger screens may need to be tied down if there’s the wind in the area.
Larger screens are inflatable devices that require blowers, which require power. Your venue either needs available power, or you need generators that can keep the blowers powered for the duration of the event. Large screens are great when you can use them, and the noise of the blowers won’t overpower the movie, but it’s worth considering. Feel free to contact us to talk about setting up an inflatable screen.
Think of Technology You’ll Need
There are a lot of different pieces of technology that go into a successful movie night. Some of them are essential, and some are optional.
In addition to the screen, you need a projector. Most projectors are digital these days and can be hooked up to a computer or to a DVD or Blu-Ray player to screen the film. You need enough distance for the size of your screen, and your projector needs to be powerful enough to focus a movie on a screen of the size you’ve chosen. Most rental companies provide a projector suited to the screen.
Your media player is also critical. After all, something needs to feed the movie to the projector. Whether it’s a laptop or a VCR, you need something to play your media.
Sound is an essential part of the movie experience. You can go all-in with a surround sound system if you have it, but it can be complicated to set up a residential unit for a large venue. You can consider renting a larger sound system. Alternatively, you can set up headphones via a wireless distribution system to give everyone a quieter way to enjoy a movie in a neighborhood that might not enjoy a raucous night in its midst.
What would a movie be without concessions? Sure, you can pop some popcorn at home and buy a bunch of candy from the shelves of your local grocery store, but that’s only part of the experience. Rental companies often allow you to rent concession machines and even offer a trained operator who can manage them safely. No one wants their movie night ruined by burning themselves on the popcorn machine, after all.
A popcorn machine is a great idea, as is a cotton candy machine. Concessions like these kick a movie night into overdrive, and the kids you bring along will be overjoyed at the cotton candy. Adding some store-bought candy to the mix completes the atmosphere. Alternatively, you can even book a company to do catering for everyone, and make it a dinner and a movie experience.
Set Up Comfortable Seating
Seating is always important for a movie. Movie theaters have the advantage of plus seating designed for hours of comfort, but renting a bunch of recliners isn’t typically a reasonable option. You’ll want to look into various rental companies to see if they provide furniture, or if you need to get them from another rental company and sync up the two. Folding chairs are hard and unforgiving, though, so you might consider simply spreading some blankets out on the ground and running a picnic-style event. Encouraging your guests to bring their own seating can be a good alternative as well.
Depending on the weather, you might want to provide something like fans or heaters to ensure everyone is comfortable. Drink trays can help avoid issues with spills and with insects, and footstools can make it a more comfortable seating situation.
Decide How Long You Want the Screen
While we’ve talked primarily about a movie night, you can always rent a screen and projector system for more than just one night. You can put on a week-long event for your neighborhood, showing a different movie each night to anyone who wants to attend.
Of course, it’s perfectly fine to rent a screen for a single night. It’s by far the most common contract for renting such a setup, and no rental company is going to have a mandatory minimum number of days outside of corporate-style jumbotron rentals.
Get Quotes and Compare Features
Once you’ve decided on everything you need, it’s time to shop around. Of course, we would love your business, so we encourage you to contact us first. If you’re not satisfied, though, you can always look at other companies for their own pricing rates and packages.
Ask about package deals with a screen, projector, concessions, and everything you need to make a movie night a great success. Be sure to ask about movie licensing and any partnerships your chosen company has that might expand your movie night and make it a night to remember.
Have you rented a projector and screen to host your own movie night, either recently or before the pandemic hit? If so, why not leave your story in the comments below? We’d like to hear it, and others reading this post can read your story and inspire their own movie nights.