How to Make a Movie Projector From a Cardboard Box

Don’t drop major bucks on an expensive projector and movie screen, we used a cardboard box, a magnifier, laptop and a window shade to create an outdoor theater.

Family Watching Movies Outdoors With a DIY Movie Projector

Family Watching Movies Outdoors With a DIY Movie Projector

Don’t drop major bucks on an expensive projector and movie screen, use a cardboard box, a magnifier, laptop and a window shade to create an outdoor theater.

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

For family movie night, we made a movie projector using a few simple items rigged up to a laptop then hung a standard window shade to use as a movie screen. You can use this set up for more than just movies since you’re using a laptop, kids can have tons of fun creating their own video or photo presentations.

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Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

Tools and Materials

  • laptop computer
  • small shipping box
  • sheet magnifier (3x lens)
  • pencil
  • marker
  • ruler or tape measure
  • utility blade or sharp scissors
  • black paint
  • small paintbrush
  • duct tape

Step 1: Trace Laptop + Magnifier

Center the open laptop on the long side of the box and using a pencil, lightly trace the laptop screen. The laptop screen will be upside down, which is correct because it will be inverted when projected on the screen. On the other side of the box, center the sheet magnifier and lightly trace around it.

Step 2: Mark Cuts

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

You’ll want your box openings to be a tad smaller than your laptop screen and magnifier sheet, so use a marker to draw another rectangle that’s a 1/2" smaller than your previously drawn lines.

Step 3: Make Cuts

Use a blade or a utility knife to carefully cut along the marked lines to create the openings. Repeat on the other side.

Step 4: Paint Interior

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

In order to project the brightest image possible onto your movie screen or wall, you’ll need to paint the inside of the entire box with black paint. Allow the paint to fully dry before moving on to the next step.

Step 5: Secure Magnifier

Place the magnifier sheet over the opening with the rigid surface facing inside. Use duct tape to secure the sheet to the box’s interior. SAFETY NOTE: Once the magnifying sheet is attached to the box, NEVER leave it in the sun. This could cause extreme heat or fire, severely damaging the box and your laptop!

Step 6: Secure Laptop

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

Position the laptop so that the screen is upside down, then secure using duct tape. NOTE: As the image is projected through the magnifier sheet, it will invert so that the image appears right-side up on your projection screen.

Step 7: Hang Screen

Once you determine the ideal location for your screen, it’s time to hang it up. Most window shades come with their own easy-to-use mounting hardware. Simply measure the width of your screen from tip to tip, then mark where each mounting bracket will be located. With a screwdriver (or drill) secure the mounting brackets using the supplied screws. Slip the screen in between the brackets, then use the pull cord to roll out the screen.

Whether it’s just you and the kids snuggled up watching a family fave or you’re hosting a full-on viewing party, creating an outdoor screening room is an easy way to keep movie night fresh and exciting for everyone.

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