Create Your Own Outside Movie Theater (& brand the event with a signature sugar cookie)

Make Your Own Outside Movie Theater

Do you ever yearn for simpler times; evenings when parents, for instance, folded pajama-clad kids into cars and spent the evening watching a movie at the drive-in?

Today’s advanced digital technology allows you to bring the mood of an outdoor theater to your own yard, and invite your neighborhood to join the fun while you’re at it.

“This summer, we thought showing movies in our front yard would be a great way to bring the neighborhood families together and provide a fun activity for lazy summer nights,” says Brian Lampman, founder of Rose Street Theater in Ann Arbor.

“We had a five-week run beginning in July and into August where we’d show a kid’s film every week, complete with pop corn, snow cones, and other treats.” (Full disclosure: Brian is my stepson.)

Brian plans to continue movie night into early winter finishing the season in December with ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas.’ One advantage of the seasonal transition means darkness arrives earlier — movies can be shown sooner so it’s not such a late night. (Second aside: Blankets will replace lawn chairs; hot chocolate will replace snow cones.)

“Mom branded the Rose Street Theater event with rose-shaped sugar cookies,” he says. “She made them for us when we were kids.” (Third aside: “Mom” is Linda Lampman, my husband Richard’s first wife, whose sugar cookie recipe and expertise is far superior to mine.) The event is free to the Rose Street neighborhood and mouth-watering pizza (including gluten-free) was generously donated by a local pizzeria.

The following checklist illuminates how Brian set up his Rose Street Theater. For detailed information regarding specifics and other alternatives for creating your own theatrical venue (written by self-proclaimed cheapskates), visit the web site

Creating and personalizing an outdoor movie theater can be as simple or complex as your budget and techie know-how allows. Brian is planning a double-feature for the Michigan/Notre Dame football game this weekend: “The Lion King” for the kids and an after-hours showing of “Gladiator” for their parents. To date there has only been one flaw in this plan. “The upset is discovering, by trial and error, that beer snow-cones just don’t work.”

Rose Street Theater Production Checklist:

  • Invitations, customized PDF’s e-mailed, or simple word-of-mouth announcements (include a rain date)
  • 1 outdoor movie projector, such as an Epson MovieMate 6
  • Extension cords, if needed
  • Assorted kid’s DVDs
  • 1 large white sheet, for viewing movie
  • Clothespins, for attaching sheet to window overhangs
  • Chairs (most brought by attendees)
  • Citronella candles, if the night is bugg
  • Blankets, if the night is chilly
  • Snow cone machine, including syrup and cups*
  • Popcorn machine, including popcorn mix and bags**
  • Other treats, such as pizza or sugar cookies (see recipe below)
Recipe: Rose Street Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing


  • 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulate sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Oil for greasing cooking sheets
  • Cookie cutters, as desired
  • Icing (recipe follows)


  1. Sift flour with baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
  2. In large bowl of electric mixer at medium speed, beat butter, sugar, and egg until light and fluffy.
  3. At low speed, beat in sour cream and vanilla until smooth.
  4. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until well combined.
  5. Remove dough with rubber scraper, and form dough into a ball; wrap in plastic wrap or baggie. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
  6. When ready to roll out dough, divide into 6 equal parts. Refrigerate parts you are not working with.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil cooking sheets.
  8. On well-floured surface, roll dough, one part at a time, to 1/4-inch thickness. With selected cookie cutters, cut dough into desired shape. Transfer cookies to oiled cooking sheet with a spatula.
  9. On center rack of oven, bake 9-12 minutes or until cookies are golden. Let cool 1 minute on cookie sheet, then carefully slide off sheet onto baking rack to cool completely before frosting.

Sugar Cookie recipe courtesy of Linda Lampman; Royal Icing recipe adapted from Shopping Details: Linda often uses Wilton concentrated paste icing colors available at Michael’s to add color to her icings. She puts a bit of paste on a toothpick and mixes it into the Royal Icing until her desired shade is reached.

She purchased the rose cookie cutter from, which she says has every conceivable type of cookie cutter. Ace Hardware also has an excellent selection of cutters. She purchases meringue powder from Baker’s Nook and Michael’s, both great resources for baking supplies.

Time to chill dough: Several hours or overnight

Active Time: Depends on intricacies of cookie; 30 minutes to over an hour

Bake Time: 9-12 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 2-4 dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed

Recipe: Royal Icing for Sugar Cookies


  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 1/4 cup warm water, plus additional if necessary
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon vanilla, lemon, mint, orange or almond extract
  • Wilton concentrated paste icing (see above Shopping Details)


  1. Place sugar and meringue powder in a large mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup warm water, extract and beat on slow to medium speed 8-12 minutes, until icing thickens and can stand in peaks. Beat in small amounts of additional warm water until you reach the desired consistency. To add color, stir in tiny amounts of paste icing until desired shade is achieved.

Royal Icing is best for sugar cookies because it dries hard.

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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