The 9 Best Projection Screens
This wiki has been updated 33 times since it was first published in March of 2015. For those of you who think that even today's TVs are still too small, you can turn your home into a veritable movie theater with one of these projection screens. Offering some truly massive sizes, they come in both indoor and outdoor models to suit a variety of budgets, lifestyles, and special occasions. We've ranked them here by their clarity, material quality, and ease of setup and use. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
March 30, 2021:
Two big adjustments made to the Wiki this round were the removal of offerings from Camp Chef and JaeilPLM, because there are many more reliable options that are also simpler and easier to set up, as well as more readily available. In their stead, we've added the Sewinfla Inflatable, which is interesting in large part because of the 22-foot version. Alongside a high-brightness projector, this can turn an average summer night into a cinema adventure for the entire neighborhood, realistically, and there will still be plenty of places to sit.
February 03, 2020:
We had a pair of very similar inflatable models on our previous list, so we got rid of one and kept the Gemmy Airblown Inflatable, which is a little bigger and a little more durable than the other. We also lost the Vivo PS-M-084, as many shipments were arriving with small dents in both the screen and the casing. In place of these, we added two models by a premier company in the Elite Screens Yard Master Plus and the Elite Screens Evanesce Plus, the latter of which is a big, 200-inch offering with exceptional performance in a variety of lighting conditions.
We almost included the best of Amazon Basics' models, but it would have required too many additional purchases to mount or stand up, where the offerings you see on our list have things like durable easels or tripods, pre-installed mounting brackets, or roll casings that make them easy to install just about anywhere. And for true cinephiles, we included a pair of professional-grade offerings from Stewart in our special honors section, both of which are designed to minimize light scatter and create a cinematic experience when paired with a high-quality projector.
Stewart AT 3.0 A scalable design that's used in everything from cinemas to theme parks, this model can create front-projected images up to 40 by 90 feet in size. The durable frame lacing is hidden by a fitted matte black border that creates a high level of contrast against any background, and each corner is hand-finished for accuracy. stewartfilmscreen.com
Stewart CineCurve A close examination of any IMAX screen will reveal a subtle curve in its surface, and this model seeks to emulate that immersive design in your home theater. Its tightly woven material creates a landscape onto which 4K, 8K, and even 16K content can be displayed, and it comes complete with a comprehensive control panel for positioning and aspect ratio. stewartfilmscreen.com
Your Silver Screen Awaits
That's what these screens offer you: the opportunity to take the ineffable pleasure of the movies into your own home with all the trappings of the actual experience.
The cinema is arguably our youngest major art form, and among painting, fiction, sculpture, music, poetry, and their lot, it is the only static artistic medium to effectively, if not necessarily, rely on the combination of two or more senses. Theatre does this as well, but unlike the static media like film and painting, a piece of theatre is in constant flux from one performance to the next, so I consider it a dynamic form.
As a species, we're still in awe of this new format, and one of the reasons we revere the stars of the silver screen is that they're up there, projected in enormity on screens so large we can't help be dragged into their worlds.
If you could take that feeling you had the first time you sat in a crowded movie theater–just as the lights faded down and the flicker of the projector splashed across the silk, that feeling of endless possibility–if you could bottle that, wouldn't you?
That's what these screens offer you: the opportunity to take the ineffable pleasure of the movies into your own home with all the trappings of the actual experience. All you would need to make it more like the real thing is a pimple-faced teenager taking roughly a day's wages every time you wanted to watch a film and eat some popcorn.
Because you have greater control over the viewing distance with your own projection screen, you also don't have to worry about arriving late to the theater and getting the worst seat in the house.
These projection screens all store wonderfully, as well, either by rolling up into a mountable storage bar or by breaking down both in screen and frame and keeping in safe, portable bags.
The screens themselves are made from woven synthetic materials specifically tailored to reflect brighter tones and absorb darker ones, so your contrast ratio is exceptionally high, as the whites bounce back and the blacks linger deeply in the picture.
Feeling At Home, Even On The Road
Among the projector screens on our list, your perfect fit will have as much to do with the spaces in which you intend to use it as it will your budget or material preference.
If you're putting together a home theater, though, you might not want something quite so rugged.
I was once on the road in Virginia painting houses with a friend. We were on our way back from a BBQ joint that a local had recommended to us, when we saw a small crowd gathering at the center of a field by an old, historically significant mill. We found parking and joined the group, only to discover that they were members of a weekly summer film society that gathered on Saturday nights to project classic movies for anyone who wanted to watch.
They had a pretty simple projection setup, but it got the job done, and it looked like nobody had to tear their hair out in the process.
A few of the screens on this list are remarkably portable, either because their stands and screens alike are designed to break down and set back up with the greatest of ease, or because they have screens that are built into inflatable bodies. For the latter projection screen, you inflate and deflate it like a big air mattress, and your screen is ready to go camping, or to the park, or anywhere you can find enough juice to run the projector.
If you're putting together a home theater, though, you might not want something quite so rugged. A screen that rolls up into a bar you can mount on the wall would be ideal for you, especially one that has a motor inside it for unrolling and rolling up the screen. You can save a little money by grabbing a manual screen, but if you're building a home theater, it might be best to go all out.
An Allegory Of The Cave Painting
Plato's Allegory of the Cave may be one of the most concise and significant epistemological treatises preserved through history. If you're unfamiliar with it, the crude version is that there's a cave upon which a nearby fire projects the shadows of forms. They are but shadows–of a horse, for example–, yet the mind perceives the horse by its outline, by a suggestion of its remarkable features.
If you're unfamiliar with it, the crude version is that there's a cave upon which a nearby fire projects the shadows of forms.
The Cave shadows are a great distance from the ideal of the horse, but so, too, is every horse you can see and touch. It's likely that Plato drew from the same inspiration that resulted in the cave paintings that reach back some 40,000 years. Those cave walls may very well have been the first projection screens, albeit unintended ones.
All it would take is for a small hole in a piece of hide strapped across a cave mouth, and you would essentially have created a prehistoric camera obscura. That would account for the cave paintings found in which cave artists rendered animals upside down, as the projection through the opening of a camera obscura would have inverted the image from without.
While the technology of the camera obscura led to the development of still photography, it wasn't until the era of cinema that projection screens took on the forms we recognize today. In those days, screens were usually any kind of stretched fabric, like canvas or silk, but you'd be hard-pressed today to find anything but the most finely tuned synthetics.