Theaters are slowly reopening, and many of them are instituting caveats to the viewing experience including wearing masks, ensuring social distancing, contactless payment options and limited available concessions. If you’re hesitant to venture into a darkened auditorium right away, you can easily bring the movie experience to your own home or even your outdoor living space (provided it’s dark enough), all you need are a few things that may be lying around your house, a smartphone and about an hour to put them together.

Magnifying glass projector


1 shoebox (make sure that it is wide enough to lay your phone in width-wise)

Duct tape, painters tape, masking tape or another non-see-through tape

Scissors, box cutter or Exacto knife

A magnifying glass

Hot glue gun

A pen

A smartphone

Two small Dixie cups (optional)

Step 1:

Either cut off or remove the handle to the magnifying glass. If the handle is short enough to fit inside the box, then it’s also fine to leave it attached.

Step 2:

DIY Projector 1

Trace the magnifying glass on the shoebox and cut it out.

Trace the outside of the magnifying glass on the outside of the shoebox and cut it out. Be careful to get all layers of cardboard from the box. Note whether the top of the shoebox will cover the hole. If so, use the cutout as a template to trace out and cut the overhang from the lid.

Step 3:

Reinforce the layers back together on the inside with tape or glue.

DIY Projector 3

Hot glue around the magnifying glass to hold it in place

Step 4:

Put the magnifying glass into the hole and hot glue the edges.

Step 5:

Tape the edges of the magnifying glass on the inside of the box to make sure no light can escape through the hole.

Step 6:

Place a holder or something inside the box that will hold your phone upright. If you have one, proceed to step 8, if not continue to Step 7.

DIY Projector 4

To create a phone holder, cut a notch in the bottom of two paper cups.

Step 7 (optional):

Using the two small paper cups, cut a notch from the bottom on each of the cups to about a quarter-inch to the top of the cups. The notch should be wide enough to hold your phone securely.

DIY Projector 6

Make sure the phone’s screen is locked so it can be placed in the shoebox upside down, the image is then reversed the right-way up when projected.

Step 8:

Prepare your phone by setting the portrait orientation lock on (on iPhones, swipe up to get your control screen and click the lock button. On Android devices, swipe down and select the auto-rotate button to lock it in place). Turn your phone’s brightness all the way up. Then open the video you want to view and place it in your phone holder so the video appears upside down and put it in the box.

Step 9:

Place the box in front of a screen, blank wall or sheet you intend to play the video on and adjust the distance and focus the phone by moving it back and forth in the box until the video is clear.

Note: Depending on the magnifying glass’ power the size and clarity of the picture will vary. You can always double up on magnifiers by gluing them together.

DIY Projector 5

The result of playing “Jaws” (1975) through a projector made from a shoebox and two magnifying glasses and shown

on a white tablecloth.


Connect your phone to a Bluetooth speaker for better sound quality.

Cut a small hole in the box that you can put a charging cable through to your phone to keep your battery from dying. Cover the hole as best you can with tape so little to no light escapes.

Better picture quality is achieved with near-total darkness, so turn out as many lights as you can.

The end result is not the clearest or the best in terms of visuals. That can really only be achieved with an actual projector, which you can rent at many audio-visual businesses around Central Oregon, or purchase from most major retailers. But if you are looking for a fun movie night with something you have seen a million times, plus a craft project kids can get into, a DIY projector is surprisingly effective — if a little blurry.

Reporter: 541-383-0304,

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