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Keeping it reel

Combine old-school cinema flourishes with a starlit summer night in your very own backyard.

By Web Behrens Photographs by Nicole Radja |
Backyard movie
 (Photo: Nicole Radja)
Photo: Nicole RadjaRental for outdoor movie from AV Chicago
Photo: istockphoto.comPopcorn
 (Photo: Jeremy Handrup)
Photo: Jeremy Handrup

Although the city’s überpopular Movies in the Park nights in Grant Park were another recession casualty, you can still find smaller screenings in various park districts all summer (see for a list). Or you can channel your inner cinema-house manager and create your own, programmed with exactly the kinds of movies you and your kids will love. Here’s how:

First, you’ll need the audiovisual hookup. Good thing AV Chicago (1322 W North Ave, 312-943-9822, delivers—with a projector combo package, which includes DVD player, speakers and a screen. Inflatable screens are popular lately, but the company also rents the more familiar (and cheaper) kind that unfurls like a window shade on a tripod.

With a variety of projector choices, customers often pick based on budget. The experts can help you select the best package; the one shown here rents for $349/weekend. Or, rent a projector with built-in speakers and DVD player for $129/weekend, then aim the image at the side of a building or a white sheet (anchored at the bottom so it hangs flat). Want to buy your own? Abt Electronics (1200 N Milwaukee Ave, Glenview; 847-967-8830, carries a variety of projectors; the least expensive, an Epson model, costs $700.

Once you’ve got the technical details down, it’s time to add the cinematic frills. Pop some joy into your evening with a movie-house popcorn machine from Chicago Moonwalks (31st St and Pulaski Rd, 312-330-0925, for $75/day (delivery extra). The antique-wagon-style rig comes with popcorn, oil, salt and 50 paper bags.

Balance out that salty snack with classic candy from Candyality (3425 N Southport Ave, 773-472-7800; 520 N Michigan Ave, 312-527-1010; A cute plastic container chock-full of Charleston Chews, Gobstoppers and such costs $45; single boxes, $2.50.

Finally, stretch the kids out for their sugar coma and movie watching on a vintage blanket from Brimfield (5219 N Clark St, 773-271-3501). This orange plaid, circa 1960, costs $45; the ’50s-era throw runs $65.

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