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In 1995 a company called Interfilm decided that the time was ripe for interactive movies. Since the genre had already failed miserably on game platforms such as the Sega CD and 3DO, Interfilm felt that movie theater audiences would embrace such media with wild enthusiasm. Soon they invaded auditorium #12 at the UA Greenwood Plaza 12, one of our small houses. Out came the cupholders on each seat, and in went special 3 button joysticks (each button a different color; red, yellow or green) all hardwired to the Interfilm machine in the projection booth.


The Interfilm unit in the projection booth.
Click the image for a much larger view.

The Interfilm system ran the movie on 3 NTSC CAV LaserDiscs (usually letterboxed) and was controlled by software loaded from a CD-R. Due to this the image quality was fairly poor given that every other movie in the complex was running on 35mm film, and LaserDisc cannot even hope to compare. Each button on each stick in the auditorium could be pressed multiple times in a sort of "majority rules" type of voting system. When presented with a choice to make, the audience selects what they'd like to see, and the results are tallied on screen via a computer-generated graphical overlay. Whichever choice gets the most votes is the video clip that gets played back. It is similar to a "Chose Your Own Adventure" book, but the voting usually has very little effect on the actual storyline and instead only result in minor details, such as how you'd like to see a certain character get tortured, etc.


The toolkit that Interfilm provided
featuring spare parts and the such.

Click the image for a much larger view, if you must.

The first movie to run on the Interfilm system was Mr. Payback, which was billed as "The world's first interactive movie". It starred Billy Warlock and Christopher Lloyd as well as some other jokers, and was written and directed by Bob Gale (writer and producer of Back to the Future). Billy Warlock is part robot and runs around hurting thugs. That's basically the gist of the entire "movie". It's slogan was "Don't Piss Me Off". The thing is that Billy Warlock's character never seems pissed off, instead he enjoys torturing people in a manner that reminds me of a polite cashier.

Each LaserDisc only contained one-half hour of video each, and the movie itself lasted about 20 minutes maximum. We had to start each show every half hour every day, and stop each show 20 minutes later. It was a pain in the ass to deal with. A second movie called Ride For Your Life starring Adam West was released many months later, but by then the public had already abandoned Interfilm. Heck, they never really embraced it in the first place! A third movie, "I'm Your Man" lasted less than a week before we were told to stop playing the movie and shut Interfilm off forever (either that or it was never released, I can't quite remember... but I do remember being told to cease InterFilm activities while we had a show). To my knowledge the Interfilm hardware still sits in the projection booth over at Greenwood, collecting dust. The joysticks came out of the auditorium long ago.


Here are some video clips of Mr. Payback:

This has never been released on video in any form, to my knowledge.
Footage is from a Super VHS tape I made when I "borrowed" a LaserDisc.
The black slates inserted were when the InterFilm unit switched to another disc.



Here is a video about the making of "I'm Your Man":

You can see lots of the joysticks in this clip


RIP Interfilm.