Memorex Mini-Projector ($90, J.C. Penney)

Yesterday, my wife and I were having breakfast while discussing our plans for later in the day. We thought we’d hit a few garage sales and see what bargains we could find, and then drive about 40 minutes to one of the last drive-in theatres in our area that evening. Double feature of “Quiet Place, Part II” and “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It”.

I logged in to reserve a space and discovered that Saturday night’s showing was sold out. Tough break, but it happens. That’s when the thought of creating our own drive-in experience hit me. With that in mind, here is how we created our own drive-in theatre for less than $100 (not including food).

During Black Friday in 2020, we picked up a mini-projector from Penney’s for just $60 (retailed for $150, but is currently on sale for $90).

This particular model has a number of media source options, including SD Micro Card, DVD, USB, as well as several HDMI ports. I initially considered using a USB or the micro card, but then figured it would be much easier to simply pick up a cheap portable DVD player and connect via HDMI.

I made a quick trip to our nearby Wal-Mart and picked up a DVD player with decent online reviews for $25 (ONN., Wal-Mart). This inexpensive player includes the remote, the HDMI cable, and even batteries (albeit cheap ones) for the remote.

On my way home, I also picked up nachos and cheese, a few hot dogs, and a cheap frozen pizza (if we were still hungry after nachos and dogs). This was my answer to our home concession stand.

Next, we contemplated what film to show that would provide that “drive-in” feeling and experience. Some of our options? “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Big Business”, “The Birds” and “Jaws”. In the end, we both agreed on 1996’s “Twister” which seemed appropriate considering it’s a Spielberg film and also includes the scene of destruction at the drive-in.

We used our garage door (which is crème colored) as the screen (we contemplated a sheet attached to our fence as well) and repurposed a bistro table with high-back chairs for seating and dining.

After hooking up the projector and DVD player, adjusting for focus and connecting our existing Bose Soundlink Mini Speaker (you could also use a sound bar), we were set to view our summer blockbuster.

It went smooth, the picture was sharp and the sound was quite good (we did turn the speaker to face us), the food was oh-so-bad but good (Twizzlers too!), and “Twister” was just as I remembered it (“We Got Cows!).

Clean-up was quick and easy (cords back in the garage, equipment in the house, table back on the patio) and we both agreed we’d do that again.

Tells us about your summer drive-in experiences past and present, and what blockbuster(s) would be your choice to show at your own theatre in the comments below!


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