Early in the summer, a bunch of us headed up to Escondido to enjoy an outdoor movie at Stone Brewery’s World Bistro & Garden. Actually, it was not just any movie, but a Rifftrax showing of 300. That movie was entertaining in itself, so to watch it again and make fun of it just had to be an awesome time. And it was. We got there early enough to secure good spots for our lawn chairs and plenty of beer and food was available throughout the movie. I also brought blankets, which came in handy as it got kind of cold in their garden.
This was before any work on the backyard had started, but as we stood on our sad concrete patio overlooking the sad backyard of dying grass and dirt, I thought, “Pfff. We could totally show movies in our new backyard and then we wouldn’t have to drive all the way up to Stone.” Then we started the process of hiring the landscape contractor, working around a constantly dusty house with dusty dogs, and promptly forgot all about the prospest of outdoor movies at home.
I don’t remember how I found out about the Epson MovieMate, but when I saw that you could have it all in one little device I was pretty much sold. Of course, then I found out that the reasonably priced version I saw was no longer sold and the newer versions were bordering on too-expensive. The debate began as to whether or not an HD-compatible device would be worth the extra, extra money. We decided it wasn’t, since we don’t even own HD or Blueray movies and by the time we had a collection the MovieMate would have died or broken or something. So then it was just me going back and forth as to whether such a purchase would even get used enough to be worthwhile.
Once the backyard was done, we seriously spent every day on the new patio. We’d come home from work and sit in the new patio furniture. T would grill up dinner and we’d eat in the new gazebo. On weekends, I’d make coffee and sit outside with the paper. Before the new backyard, we would have just turned on the AC and hunkered down inside. Even after the sun went down, inside the house would still be too warm. Outside on the patio would be just right. I started thinking it would be pretty cool to be able to watch movies sitting on the patio. I started wondering if we could just live on the patio.
We got to a point where it became pretty clear the yard would actually be done in time for Labor Day. What better way to celebrate than with a bbq? What would be cooler that being able to show a movie outside, in our new backyard? Of course, as fate would have it, by this time no one had the MovieMate in stock. The Epson store was out of stock; Amazon.com was projecting a 2-3 week wait before it even shipped out. I finally found it at some other online electronics store that claimed it would ship in 1-2 days, only to discover they were out of stock (I was checking because my order had not, in fact, shipped in 1-2 days). Now I was sad. I had been looking forward to this and I was sad. T offered to bring home his office projector, which we could rig up to a computer to show a movie. Then, by the time I called customer service to see if my projector would ever get shipped (or if I could cancel my order), I got a tracking number from UPS saying my projector was scheduled to be delivered on Friday. Before our Sunday party. Talk about close timing!
Instead of buying a $200 screen, I figured I could make something myself for way less. I bought a white shower liner from Target (non-PVC!) and hung it up with cup hooks. It wasn’t wide enough, so I bought a second one (actually, I bought a second one + an extra liner, just in case). Then it wouldn’t stop flapping around, so I taped shower tension rods to the bottom for some weight and stability. Ta da! Fairly decent movie screen for under $40!
The MovieMate gives you a pretty nice picture – good lines, nice colors – but lacks a little in the sound department. T hooked up comuter speakers pretty easily, which gave more than enough noise. Considering that I didn’t want to have to carry and assemble a projector, speakers, and a DVD player every time we wanted to watch a movie outside, I’m pretty happy with the MovieMate and occasionally hooking up speakers. It’s still really easy to do.
So, bottom line: the MovieMate (we have the 50, the 72 is the HD-compatible one) is a great little unit and easy to move around. You get a nice big picture for movies and the sound of the side speakers are decent, too. For showing to a large group, I’d recommend hooking up speakers (like computer speakers), but for a smaller group, even outside, I think the unit speakers would be fine. Granted, I’m no movie afficionado, so I have no detailed observations on colors, graininess, dpi, or other such technical nonsense. The only downside to the MovieMate, that I can see, is that it’s hard to find. Perhaps it’s because Epson is coming out with a newer version? I don’t know.