Launching an Outdoor Cinema: How?

Most people love a good movie and see going to the cinema as a great way to spend time with friends or loved ones. Many of us not only discuss the films we’ve seen, but also whether the cinema is fitted out well or is in dire need of refurbishment. The most popular cinemas provide comfortable seating, a vast range of refreshments and snacks to choose from, and an excellent sound system to name but a few qualities. In summer months outdoor cinemas gain popularity but are usually pop-ups that appear for a short while only and aren’t always focused on viewers’ comfort. A more permanent open air cinema is a great business venture, but how do you go about running one?
Official permission and licensing
Before you start setting up any equipment in a public place, you need to seek official permission from the local authorities who’ll be able to advise you on locations, licensing and health and safety considerations. This will differ from city to city so it’s best to first seek advice at your local council’s one stop shop. Don’t leave handling documentation until the last minute as it can take a while to sort out. Remember you’ll also need to consider copyright issues and whether your copy of the film is allowed to be screened publicly.
Technical considerations
To successfully screen movies outdoors you’ll need a screen, a projector and a sound system. As the equipment relies on electricity to work, you’ll need to find out whether your chosen venue has power sources available or whether you’ll require a portable generator. Potential noise pollution is an issue the council is likely to raise so consider individual headphone sets instead of traditional speakers. For health and safety reasons lighting might be required to direct people to the rest rooms or to warn of potential hazards like cables that are easy to trip on.
Facilities and furniture
Comfort is a key factor in ensuring your outdoor cinema project is a success. You don’t want people complaining that the cheap garden furniture was really hard to sit on for two hours. Invest in quality seating or, if you are looking to save money, provide cushions with plastic seats. Bean bags are a great alternative and, if bought in a big size, will be a hit among couples. Even picnic blankets can be used if padded with a few cushions. To reel in the crowds, you can offer reduced price tickets to people who bring their own blanket. Considering even summer evenings tend to get a bit chilly, offer your customers throws to huddle up in.
In terms of refreshments, provide snacks with a difference. Opt for summery foods like light sandwiches, fruit and ice cream instead of the usual cinema junk food. Consider serving light alcoholic beverages too. Though this will result in more paperwork, in the long run people will appreciate the chance to have a crisp glass of white wine or a refreshing pint while watching an excellent film.
You’ll find rest rooms are an official requirement. If your venue is in a public space such as a park, toilet facilities may be available centrally, but make sure these are open in evening hours too. If not, or if you’re setting up your venture further afield, rent a set of portable loos.
To kick off your outdoor movie season with success, start planning the details far in advance and get a reliable team onboard. Make sure your staff are all informed about licensing information, health and safety regulations and how to run the equipment like power generators and lighting so you can safely leave the cinema in someone else’s hands if need be.