Watching the Tube . . . Outdoors

Maureen Jenson, the editor of Home Theater magazine, also sees what she calls “a huge trend” in outdoor viewing, particularly in the area of weather-resistant equipment, which is designed to be left outdoors.

And we’re off . . . it looks like this is a trend that is picking up steam and is not going to be a fad. The quotes are from a NY Times article entitled; The Drive-In Without the Drive, a very catchy and appropriately titled story.
The Drive-in theater without the “Drive-in“. More evidence that Americans are turning inward and finding ways to entertain themselves at home rather than on the road, or far away from home. Gas prices climb, air-travel becomes more and more user-unfriendly, customer service is not that great in hotels. Stay home . . . why not?

I would also venture to guess that most of these folks have some sort of indoor home theater, or a large screen TV. So this becomes a natural progression to move to the outdoors, it’s just another venue for the homeowner to entertain themselves.

This comes back to a remark I made several weeks ago about Americans having too much money-which is not a bad thing. But some of these guys are spending a lot of money on these set-ups. For example:

Greg Jensen, Engineered Environment’s director of engineering, designed a setup in which a 20-foot-wide custom Stewart Filmscreen is hidden beneath a 20-foot teak bench that runs along the side of the pool nearest the beach. . . . . . . The projector, a Digital Projections Mercury 5000HD, drops from the roof of the cabana across from the pool. The cost of the screen was $50,000; the projector was $20,000. Total cost of the Dolby Digital 7.1 theater: $175,000.

outdoor screen onWay to go Greg; he’s spending big money and keeping the economy going. There are also several examples of the DIY’ers and their unique problem solving( I liked the guy with the pipes, and his tailor-nice going). There was another line from the article that will send the “Downfall of Gardening” lamenters into a tizzy.

Speak to the integrators and you see a backyard future in which one might never be forced to sit in a tiresome garden and sniff a rose again: . . . .

It would be true, the last thing you want to do is worry about trimming some dumb-ol’ bushes or pulling stupid weeds when you’re setting in the Gazebo and wondering how many more weeks can “Cliffie” stay on Dancing with the Stars.

Obviously this is more prevalent in warmer climates, but that is not going to stop those folks who are outside May-October. In my experience living in a more Northern climate lends to folks appreciating the outdoors even more than those in the South hiding away in their air-conditioning. What does this mean? it means this trend will happen, and will work here, and most likely be very popular.

We Designers are going to have to come up with very clever way to design this space(s). You need seating(covered or not), a place for the screen(how is it housed), speakers(what’s the set-up?), and backdrop and framing for the screen. This will most likely take place on a hard surface area—at the same time leaving space for those who wish to sprawl on a blanket on the lawn.

How does this fit into the rest of the landscape, it will obviously have to be part of a multi-use area. I noticed a few of these were pop-up screens to accommodate those in the pool. What about those who want to watch not in the pool?

This is a challenge I look forward too, I have yet to design/install one of these. Questions have been asked, that’s as far as it gone. if you put in a elaborate system and designed a landscape around it we’d love to hear about it. Send pictures I’ll post ’em.

So the last question I have is . . . what’s left? Have we now moved everything outside?



1.) The photo showing the TV on was found at backyardtheater(dot)com, and the thread in the forum where the homeowner talks about this specific set-up. Interesting stuff and he really went into a lot of thought on the project. The backyard-that’s another issue.

2.) The inflatable screen from Open Air Cinema:

inflatable outdoor screenA description from their website:

The Backyard Theater Screen BIG 12′ is constructed from a mesh reinforced, PVC with rust free plastic grommets. A vinyl ground cloth is also included to protect the PVC frame from sharp objects on the ground.

The frame inflates in less than 5 minutes with the provided air pump and hose. The 16×9 screen connects to the inflatable frame’s plastic grommets using adjustable straps for flexible screen support. The screen is compatible with all types of projectors including 16×9 Widescreen, 4×3 aspect ratio, front projection and rear projection.

3.) If you are looking for that fabric mentioned in the Times story. I found a supplier for Trapeze. It’s even listed as a projection fabric.

4.) Lastly, how about a plain ol’ weatherproof large screen TV for your outdoor patio?

sunbrite TVThe tag line from the website; Designed for permanent outdoor residential and commercial installation, SunBriteTV allows you to enjoy TV and video entertainment in the comfort of your own backyard and at other outdoor venues, regardless of the weather!



5.) The top photo is is from the NY Times by Len Kaufman.

By Rick Anderson

The Whispering Crane Institute was originally formed to act as the umbrella organization for the Philosophy of Design Symposium, and other seminars and workshops given by Rick Anderson and Richard L. Dube’. In the year 2000 WCI became a sole proprietorship owned by Rick Anderson. Today the WCI provides design and consultation services for Landscape Contractors, acts as a Green Industry think tank, and provides training for others in the form of workshops, seminars, and individual consulting. The WCI also provides written material, opinions, case-studies and how-to articles for industry trade magazines.


  1. Rick,

    I hope you and your readers will stop by our site as questions and challenges arise. You’ll find many design ideas and a friendly community of people willing to offer what we know. Thanks for the mention in your blog post!

    Backyard Theater is a blast.


    Randy; I’m sure professionals will use your site as a reference for projects that come up in their future design work. The forum is an interesting source of photo’s, ideas, and “hearing” about the mistakes. I especially liked the photo where the guy has his lines hooked up through jacks built into the deck.

    Keep it up, great site. Invaluable site for those moving into this new venue for home entertainment.

  2. You know, I fell for the TV hype and bought a big flat one a couple of years ago… and I never turn it on. A total waste of resources.

    TV outside? Where the birds and plants are?

    Not for me.

    This is for a wedge of the market, the question will be; how big a wedge?

  3. You know… a few years back, some friends screened several movies (Fight Club, Office Space, etc.) in their backyard. Instead of a big screen, we had a laptop and a cheap secondhand projector that broadcast the movie on the back wall of their white-sided garage! (We had an old bedsheet, just in case, but the siding was flat enough that it worked out fine without it.)

    A break to get sleeping bags, refill some bottles of “stuff” in paper bags (so the neighbors wouldn’t complain) and make another batch of microwave popcorn was the only interruption… we had a great night. 🙂

    That said, I don’t usually watch TV now, so I’m certainly not mucking up my backyard with one. Even if it becomes affordable!

    Not surprised that you would be on this side of the issue. though that sounds like it was a pretty good party. Bedsheet/siding; not for that crowd, gotta have a screen that can justify the set-up(which is understandable). The reality is, is that some folks are looking for ways to maximize their outdoor entertainment, and this is another one of those ways. . . . . . . . . bottles of “stuff”???

  4. we are a inflatable games factory which has many years’ experience . we produce the inflatable screen and tent ,slide and bounce .wish your cooperation.pls E-mail me feel free.
    or you can go to our website . thanks

  5. I just stumbled across your blog- thanks for them mention! It would seem from the previous comments that the outdoor theater trend is definitely not for everyone. But more and more people are picking up on it and it is definitely becoming more affordable. Not only that but we’ve started using our outdoor cinema systems as more than just expensive home luxuries but as tools for humanitarian aid… check out the work we’ve been doing in Africa at

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