How to Run an Outdoor Movie Night

Outdoor movie nights in Australia bring back nostalgic memories of warm evenings, enjoying popcorn and lounging on beanbags while watching a great movie under the stars with your family. Hosting such an event requires some planning, but it can also be a fantastic way to make a profit. Here are some tips to ensure a successful outdoor movie night:

Before the Event:

  • Choose a suitable date: Consider the expected weather, sunset times, and other events happening in the area, such as sports carnivals or major football games. Starting the outdoor movie 15-30 minutes after sunset is recommended.
  • Plan for wet weather: Have a contingency plan in case of rain. Decide whether you will cancel, postpone, or relocate the event to an alternative location.
  • Obtain necessary approvals: Contact your local council to determine what permissions and permits you need. Check if you require a liquor or food license, electrical sign-off, or assistance with road closures and parking.

Choosing a Location:

  • Opt for a suitable location: School ovals are often the preferred choice due to their size, flatness, grassy areas, and accessibility. For mid-winter movie nights, semi- or fully enclosed undercover areas work well.
  • Consider facilities: Ensure there is easy access to toilets. If school toilets are open, address any security or safety concerns. If you’re advertising to the wider community, assess the availability of sufficient parking.
  • Be mindful of noise: Take into account nearby residential areas and try to minimise disturbances, especially when people are returning to their cars after the event.
  • Arrange for appropriate lighting: Ensure adequate lighting for when attendees are leaving and heading back to their vehicles.
  • Determine power sources: Assess where the power will come from and whether you need generators or extension cords.
  • Provide access to water: If you plan to have food stalls, ensure there is water access for their needs.
  • Manage waste: Set up sufficient rubbish and recycling bins to maintain cleanliness during and after the event.
  • Organise seating area: If you require ticketing, consider roping off the seating area and allowing only ticket holders access.

Sourcing a Movie and Screen:

  • Seek professional assistance: Unless you have experts in sound and movie technology within your school community, it’s advisable to hire a professional company to handle the screen, projector, and sound systems.
  • Make sure you have the necessary licenses for public performance – get in touch with Roadshow Public Performance Licencing for help.
  • Choose the right screen size: Select a screen size that matches your expected audience. A small screen (4m x 2m) is suitable for groups of up to 100 people, while larger crowds of up to 1,000 will require a much larger screen (12m x 8m) which may be costlier.
  • Consider costs: Prices for screen hire can vary significantly, but as a rough estimate, a small screen suitable for up to 200 people might cost around $500.

Costs and Ticketing:

  • Plan ticket pricing: If the event is a fundraiser, consider offering slightly cheaper movie tickets to attract a larger audience. You can supplement the revenue through additional fundraising activities conducted concurrently with the movie screening.
  • Calculate all expenses: Ensure your ticket prices cover all costs, including screen and movie hire, permit fees, equipment rentals (e.g., generator, bouncy castle), printing, and marketing expenses.
  • Consider bundled packages: Offering packages that include a movie ticket, a drink or ice cream voucher, glow sticks, and a raffle ticket can be perceived as good value by customers. It also reduces the need for handling extra money and prevents over-ordering.

Concurrent Events and Activities:

  • Arrange pre-show entertainment: Consider hosting activities like karaoke, bouncy castles, raffles, side-show games, music or dance recitals, and craft tables to engage attendees before the movie starts.
  • Decide on food and drink options: Determine whether you will have food and drink stalls or if it will be a BYO (bring your own) arrangement.
  • Offer additional items for sale: Consider selling glow sticks, popcorn, tattoos, or other things that can enhance the movie-going experience.
  • Explore advertising opportunities: Sell advertising space on the screen, tickets, or in printed programs to local businesses in exchange for sponsorship.
  • Create a premium experience: Introduce a “Gold Class” or VIP area with comfortable seating, such as beanbags and cushions, along with a hamper pack containing luxury chocolates, gourmet food, drinks, and other goodies.
  • Add decorative touches: Consider decorating the movie night venue with glow sticks or fairy lights to create an enchanting ambience.

Things to Remember:

  • Coordinate with the school gardener or council: Ensure that sprinklers or reticulation systems won’t unexpectedly turn on during the event.
  • Prepare the venue: Make sure the grass is mowed a week before the event to minimise mess from clippings and reduce allergy risks.
  • Establish an emergency and evacuation plan: Have a clear plan in place, including designated muster points and accessible contact persons reachable via mobile phone at all times. Keep local police and council phone numbers easily accessible.
  • Market the event in advance: To maximise attendance, use various marketing strategies such as paid advertising in local papers, signs on community boards, letter drops in the neighbourhood, giant posters outside the school, or enlisting local businesses to sell tickets on your behalf. Ensure tickets are numbered, and be aware of your night’s maximum capacity.
  • Communicate seating requirements: Inform attendees about the seating arrangements, whether they should bring beanbags, cushions, low camp chairs, or if provisions will be made for those who cannot sit on the ground.

Related article: How to make a DIY Lolly Buffet

Updated 18 July 2023

Author of original article: Shannon Meyerkort

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