A Drive-In Movie Birthday Party - MetroFamily Magazine
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A Drive-In Movie Birthday Party

by Erin Vestring

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

If your family is anything like ours, birthdays are a big deal. My youngest turned five in June and he talked for months leading up to his special day about what he wanted to do for his party. When he became captivated by the movie Encanto, I knew I had a great birthday theme on my hands.

As I was brainstorming how I could make the Encanto party of his dreams, I remembered an image I saw years ago of an outdoor movie night complete with a projector and concessions. I thought what better way to have an Encanto party than to make watching the movie be the experience? We decided to make it a “drive-in” movie by creating cars out of basic moving boxes. We purchased a projector from Amazon that connected to our computer and used a white sheet as a screen.

We had plans to make the movie night an outdoor party, but the sweltering Oklahoma heat and the late summer sunset changed our plans. Moving the party inside provided an opportunity for us to have the party a little earlier in the day by blacking out the light from our windows. It also gave everyone a much-needed chance to enjoy the air conditioning. Each child was given personalized popcorn buckets and cups, along with a candy selection before the movie began.

I think the cars were every kid’s favorite part. To make the boxes, I picked out medium size moving boxes from the hardware store and decided on a car color scheme. After purchasing spray paint, I went to work painting each box with a color from my selection. For this party, I went with bright colors. Black and silver metallic paper plates made great tires and hubcaps, while white paper plates acted as steering wheels.

Magically almost every child stayed in the box cars eating their snacks for the duration of the movie which gave parents the chance to chat or enjoy watching the movie themselves!

Other elements that made our party magical:

The Cake – My son wanted a donut in place of a traditional birthday cake, so I ordered a large “donut cake” from one of our favorite local donut bakeries. I added peppermints and popcorn-shaped marshmallows to imitate a popcorn bucket. Other concession-style snacks included pizza and a candy display of our family’s favorite movie theater candy.

Personalized Touches – Each child received a personalized cup of lemonade to take with them to their cars and a personalized popcorn bucket.

Party Decorations – I tried to tie in the Encanto theme with party décor that included a homemade balloon arch with some mylar animal balloons and jungle paper goods from Meri Meri.  My son’s favorite characters from Encanto are Bruno and Antonio so the party leaned a little bit “jungle” to imitate Antonio’s special room.

I knew all the planning and decorating was worth it when my son saw the setup and said, “you did all this for me?! I love it!”

Would you like to create an at-home movie night for your family or friends?  It can be as elaborate or simple as you like! Here are some things that you might need:

  • A projector
  • A sheet and large blank space to project the movie
  • Homemade cars or even a pile of comfy pillows, cushions and blankets.  Letting your children help customize their car can add an extra fun element!
  • Fun snacks to create the effect of a concession stand
  • If your party is outside, consider stringing café or twinkle lights to give the illusion of an old-time drive-in movie.

I hope you have so much fun creating a special movie night and making memories with your family!


Writer Bio: Erin Vestring is a former elementary school teacher and mom of two boys. She has a passion for children’s literature, childhood play and letting children be little. Her favorite pastimes include exploring Oklahoma City with her kids, reading aloud to her children, traveling with her family, reading for pleasure and working on her personalization business “A Merry Day Shop” with her sister. You can follow along for fun children’s play and activity ideas on Instagram @makeeverydayok, to see her favorite children’s books @myboyslovebooks, and at her small shop @amerrydayshop.

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