Alexandra Aja making an interactive movie where audiences decide the outcome on their phones

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Innovation is hard. Especially when it looks like all other ideas have been tried before and you need to look for a new angle or way of doing something. This especially true in the movie business where new and original stories told in unique ways are hard to come by and is partly why studios keeping turning back to rebooting old movies – because they know the formula works.   

So when it’s difficult to create completely unique story ideas or crafting new camera angles to tell the story, the next big ways of innovation is in changing the narrative structure and one of the big ways filmmakers are looking to do that is with interactive content, that allows audiences to decide what happens in the movie at different times. Recently we saw Netflix dabble rather successfully in this with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch which played on the concept of video game design and merged the two mediums together in a subtle way. That was on smart TVs and mobile devices though.

With many filmmakers still seeing the cinema experience as the holy grail of movie watching, the challenge is to create a way of allowing interaction for a cinema audience while they are watching a movie.

Director Alexandre Aja – whose recent horror movie Crawl turned out to be a huge success – is looking to do just that with his next big horror movie. Collider reports that the currently untitled movie – to be based on a haunted house story – will have audiences vote on certain plot choices during the movie via their smartphones (within a certain time frame) with the results of that choice then playing out directly in front of them onscreen. This is, of course, a little ironic seeing as one of the banes of the cinema experience is having somebody operate their bright smartphone while in the darkened theatre.

The report doesn’t go into too much detail on exactly how the concept will work from a technical point of view, though Amblin Partners (who are producing the movie) are teaming up with Kino Industries and its CtrlMovie technology to create this live interactive experience for audiences. If you attended the recent Monster Jam monster truck events around the country, they had their own live interactive voting system that works via a website using a specific event code that you enter on your smartphone. Maybe something similar could be implemented here?

Either way, however they do it, details on the actual plot of this film are very sketchy at the moment. Though it is apparently based on an idea by Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard, who’ve collaborated on many horror properties, including The Haunting of Hill House and Gerald’s Game. I like the idea of interactive movie and the experimentation that filmmakers are putting into them – even if video games will always do it better – but I also worry that things like this can easily become a gimmick to get audiences back in the cinema to try and get to the different multiple endings rather than a focus on telling a great story. Let’s hope Aja and team will be able to do both with this new concept, whenever it releases.

Last Updated: August 16, 2019

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