How to Provide Sound for Outside Cinema

by Andrew Bishop

Drive in Cinema or walk in Cinema outdoors demands the right sound system so that everyone can enjoy watch a great classic movie or sing-along to the Sound of Music, Mama Mia or The Greatest Showman.

Drive in Movie Headaches

Transmitting FM to cars or transistor radios is fraught with issues.

  • Modern cars switch off radios after 2 minutes to conserve battery
  • In darkness the repetitive ignition and side light flashes ruin the movie for those not in the front row.
  • We are all used to DAB transmissions and superb audio quality FM is ok but dated technology.

Positioning speakers adjacent to car windows 60’s style requires cabling or transmission of low-quality Bluetooth to multiple devices presenting further cost and technical challenges.

Recent tests in the USA arguably the frontrunner in Drive in Movies have proven that audiences sat in cars with the windows open get a fine sound experience from Line Array or Point Source provided the speakers are positioned higher than the vehicles.

The addition of audience side fills with active speakers on stands adds to the experience and deals with blind spots.

Rarely do drive in movies gather too many vehicles as the screen has to be seen so there is little point in adding delay towers or going “over the top” with too many speakers.

What is the best way to get the best outdoor cinema sound?

To get the right system simply advise BishopSound engineers by phone or email the number of cars, distances and screen size and we will calculate the optimum system to meet your needs.

Outdoor Seated Movies

Over the last 3 years outdoor cinema has grown rapidly. This is mainly due to advancements in outdoor daylight screen and image projection technology. Audiences are simply sat on blankets with hampers, others are formally seated, either way the principles of delivering sound are remarkably similar and critical to the success of the event.

Most Outside Cinema limits numbers to 200 – 300 people. The best system deploys point source as Line array can take many hours to set up and configure correctly. Point source delivers an even sound across a 90-degree sound field.

To fill any sound gaps in the audience a few side fills and rear fills help

Full Control of Cinema Sound

What do most people use to ensure they get full control of sound for cinema?

Most new portable outdoor cinema systems are active which means the amplifiers are built into the speakers. Active or powered speakers need to be plugged into mains/generator electricity.

Here are the Top 5 Reasons to use Active Speakers on Outdoor Cinema:

  1. Easy and fast to set up on a 35mm telescopic pole mount or on a stage on its side.
  2. Precise control of Volume, Bass Treble level in each zone/area each the speaker covers.
  3. Daisy chain the signal from one speaker to another with one standard cable.
  4. Only 14kg in weight and 120-degree dispersion of the full range sound.
  5. Sound throws over 100 metres with no cold spots everyone gets perfect sound.

Some larger audiences will benefit from an additional active subwoofer which can be linked to any of the active full range speakers.

A typical Outdoor Cinema system for 300 people would comprise of:

4 x Orion 12” Active speakers with Bluetooth

4 x Tripod Stands

6 x 10 metre XLR to XLR cables

Total Cost would be less than £1,200

For larger audiences BishopSound has the solution and a simple call will enable us to deign the right system for you.

Email today at or message us using our Live Chat for more info.