How to Host a Backyard Family Film Festival

Kick off fall with a magical outdoor movie party.

photography by Alex Ham & Elizabeth Lavin

The Set

Roll film. The cooler temps and shorter days make this time of year perfect for hosting an evening of alfresco film fun. Keep it simple with a few cushy chairs and pillows, a stack of cozy blankets, nostalgic eats, and some tasty sips. Throw in a cast of your favorite friends, and you’re ready to watch the main attraction.

The Flick
Rushmore (1999). Go back to (prep) school with Wes Anderson’s wickedly funny, cult coming-of-age story, starring Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and Olivia Williams.

The Menu
Pint-sized guests will clamor for hot dogs served from an old-school stand. Cater to grown-up palates by augmenting that squeeze bottle of ketchup with elevated toppings like homemade relish and spicy mustard. Stock the concession stand with a stash of your favorite vintage candies. Gourmet popcorn will make you wonder what you ever saw in that big bucket of fake butter-drenched movie theater kernels. We love the Red Hot Cinnamon and Salt & Vinegar flavors from Uptown Popcorn. Hot chocolate and Gold Rush cocktails keep the crew well-hydrated.

The Libations
Create a refreshing cocktail inspired by your feature film.

The Rushmore Gold Rush
serves twelve
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
5 ounce piece of ginger, sliced into thin rounds
3 limes, cut into wedges
6 lemons
48 ounces club soda
24 ounces vodka

For the ginger simple syrup: Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add ginger, and let the liquid simmer for 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat, cover with a lid, and allow liquid to steep for 30-45 minutes. Strain the syrup through a mesh sieve into an airtight glass bottle and store in the refrigerator; discard the ginger. For the cocktail: Fill 12 glasses with ice cubes, add 1 ounce of ginger simple syrup, 2 ounces of vodka, 4 ounces of club soda, and the juice of half a lemon to each glass, stir well. Garnish with a lime wedge.

1. Screen Test Go DIY by hanging a king-size white sheet from your linen closet on a flat surface. For more viewing space,  opt for a large drop cloth available for about $30 at any home improvement store.

2. Ticket Taker A mock ticket booth serves as a snack bar for young guests.

(from top): Good News candy bar, $1.29, World Market; Druvmalla blanket, $10,
3. Sugar Rush Bottles of vintage sodas round out a spread of classic movie snacks.

4. Throw Down A wire basket is filled with inexpensive Ikea blankets to keep guests warm as they chill on vintage Persian rugs from Feizy ( and cozy furniture from Rent My Dust (

5. Warm Up When the temperature dips, serve steaming cups of cocoa topped with generous dollops of whipped cream.

6. Hat Trick Send guests home with a film-inspired favor. We chose red berets reminiscent of the one wore by Max Fischer in Rushmore.