Outdoor movie nights are a classic Aussie childhood memory– warm evenings, popcorn, beanbags and great movie under the stars with family and friends. They also require a fair bit of planning but can make a great profit.

Why an Outdoor Movie Night?

An outdoor movie night is a relatively an easy fundraiser to organize, and it can be easily used in concurrence with other fundraising ideas such as raffles and auctions.

Outdoor Movies Guide for Schools

 1. Planning a date and time

Choosing a date: Make sure to look at the expected weather, sunset times and other events taking place at the school (e.g. sports carnival) on your desired date.

Choosing a start time: the recommended time is start 15-30 minutes after sunset

It is important to have a wet-weather plan – will you cancel, postpone or hold it in an indoor/covered location?

2. Choosing a location

Choosing a location: venues with a large, flat and grassy space are ideal for a cinema under the stars (like a school oval). Semi- or fully enclosed undercover areas are best for events in the winter.

Important questions to ask:

  • Is there access to power? How far away is it? Will you need long extension cables or a generator?
  • Is there enough parking available for the expected number of guests
  • Will the venue have enough lighting around for guests to exit the venue safely?
  • Are there access to toilets?
  • Will you need access to waterfor food stalls?
  • Are there any noise concernsfor nearby residential areas?
  • Can the venue fit adequate rubbish/recycling bins?

Depending on how you plan on selling tickets, you may also need to plan how you could rope off the seating area, to only allow access to people with tickets

3. Organising a movie and screen

Unless someone within your school community has experience with sound and movie operating, it is advisable to hire a professional company to organise the screen, projector, sound systems and an operator. Most will also source the movie and any licenses on your behalf. It is important that you understand the PPL (Public Performance licence) requirements and that you have the proper permission to screen a movie.

The size of the screen should match your expected audience – a small screen (4m x 2.5m) is suitable for groups up to 200, but if you are hoping to attract up to 1000 guests, then you will need a much larger (and costlier) screen of 8m x 5m.

4. Costs and Ticketing

When calculating ticket prices, ensure all costs are met such as the cinema hire, movie license, venue fees, marketing costs and any other hire fees (popcorn machine, bouncy castle etc.).

Tickets that not only include the cost of the movie but also a voucher for a drink or meal or raffle ticket are always seen as a good value by customers. It can also make the night itself run more smoothly by easing the load of money handling on the nigh and saving money on over-ordering.

5. Additional Event Activities

Important questions to consider:
  • Will you be running pre-show entertainment– raffles, karaoke, music/dance performance?
  • Have you considered selling advertisingspace on-screen or on the tickets?
  • Will you have stalls selling food or drink or will it be BYO?
  • Will there be any decorations? (like fairy lights)
  • Will you be providing seating or hiring our seating? (like bean bags)
  • Will you be offering a ‘Gold Class’ or VIP area?

Other notes to consider

Make sure guests are aware whether seating will be provided on the night – Should they bring blankets or cushions? Are chairs permitted? What provisions will be made for people who cannot sit on the ground?

Consult your school gardener about turning off any sprinklers/reticulation during your even

Make sure the grass is mowed a week prior, to reduce both mess from clippings and allergies.

With any large scale events you will need to have a clear emergency and evacuation plan including clear exit points for guests. Ensure that contact to emergency services is easily accessible.

Marketing the event in as early as possible is a good way to ensure you get maximum attendance – this might be through paid advertising in the paper, posters on local community boards and around the school, letter drop boxes or asking local businesses to sell tickets on your behalf. Ensure tickets are numbered and decide on the maximum capacity.