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Interactive Cinema — Czechoslovakia

by Peter Biľak

One Man and His House, the world’s first interactive movie, premiered at the Czechoslovak pavilion at EXPO’67 in Montreal. In it, Mr Novák, a somewhat hapless everyman, faces a series of increasingly dramatic dilemmas, and at each key moment, the film is stopped by a live narrator who asks viewers to use buttons built in to their seats to vote on what Mr Novák should do. The film became the hit of the expo, with people waiting in line for hours to see it and major American studios negotiating for the rights.

Since variations in the plot are handled by alternating between only two projectors, the audience’s influence is purely illusory, the storylines reconverging after each choice and inevitably ending with Novák’s house burning down. The 1971 Czechoslovak premiere was a great success, but the project was later shut down for political reasons. After the Velvet Revolution, Czech Television recreated the performance by broadcasting the parallel projections on channels 1 and 2, allowing viewers to create their own version of the story by choosing channels at the appropriate moments.

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