When I was a kid, I used to read those books where, at certain points in the book, you'd be given a choice, essentially control over what the characters should do, or what should happen to them, and then each choice would send you to a particular page from which the story continues in the way you wanted it to.

This would make the story far more fun as I felt that I was in control, that I could avoid things happening which I had little interest in (for example, I hated romantic subplots as a kid, so whenever a man and a woman was involved, if I could, I always chose for the man to kill the woman!), and it also made me re-read the book often in order to try out different combinations of choices.

Why are there not more (any?) movies that are structured like this? For example, in the cinema, at each of these "choices", the audience in the cinema could be polled for what particular action (out of a set of choices) they'd want to take, and then the majority choice wins. And, if the movie is a DVD, then one could also easily incorporate a choice that needs to be made using the TV remote by each viewer.

It would be expensive producing such a movie, yes, but then again, we have movies that are being made right now that costs hundreds of millions of dollars, so I don't really think "expensive" is a dealbreaker, in particular if the movie works well and intrigues audiences (plus, the added benefit of audiences rewatching the film in order to try out different choices).

So, probably using "Why" in the question makes it seem like it's opinion based, but I'm looking for any solid information as to the genre and why it works or doesn't work, has it worked in the past and is there any indication it might work in the future.

  • There have been a couple of such films, often TV-only, where the viewers could tele-vote. But how popular are or were those choose-your-own-adventure books ever?
    – SQB
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 12:35
  • There was a TV programme on children’s BBC in the 80s/90s where people could phone up to leave ideas about how the story would progress and then they’d show it the next episode. I think there was a question about it not long ago and it was basically a fix. I think also at least one UK soap opera had a “viewers vote on one of three different endings” episode.
    – Darren
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 18:50
  • I found out there is such a movie through Steven Soderbergh and HBO called, Mosaic: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosaic_(murder_mystery) Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 3:14

5 Answers 5


The book series you reference is called "Choose Your Own Adventure". It appears the waters are being tested with a movie called "Late Shift"


Early in the film "Late Shift," Matt, a student on his way to a night job, faces an easily relatable dilemma: help a lost tourist with directions and risk being late to work or ignore the man and hop on a waiting subway train. Here is where you would expect director Tobias Weber to show the audience the outcome of Matt's decision as the story unfolds.

Matt's choice, however, is up to you, the viewer. In fact, you control every major plot turn in the film. "Late Shift," created by CtrlMovie, a small studio in Switzerland, and written by Weber and Michael Robert Johnson, best known for Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes," may be the world's first fully realized choose-your-own-adventure film.

As the article states, this turns the movie into a game, and that type of interaction may limit the scope of its audience.

Apparently, Netflix has recently attempted this as well:


From the article:

Netflix is introducing interactive movies that allow viewers to dictate how the narrative unfolds.

The first of these "narrative episodes" is called Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale. This interactive video, which serves as a standalone episode separate from The Adventures of Puss in Boots TV series, is available on the streaming service right now.

GQ thinks they may become more commonplace in the near future:


However, as the GQ article points out, this has been attempted as far back as 1961:

Take B-movie legend William Castle, who built his career on low-budget horror movies propped up by goofy gimmicks. His 1961 gothic thriller Mr. Sardonicus turned the movie theater into a gladiatorial arena, inviting audiences to raise glow-in-the-dark cards with either a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down" to determine whether the ending would punish Sardonicus or show mercy for his misdeeds over the course of the movie. According to William Castle, audiences almost always voted for Sardonicus to be punished.

  • 1
    I was going to write an answer dedicated to Castle, but I think you did him plenty of justice.
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 8:31

I've actually attended such a movie screening at a theater back in the mid-1990's in Atlanta, Georgia. I believe it was promoted on a local radio station. Each viewer had a 3-button controller in their seat. At various points in the movie, the audience could decide what should happen by pressing one of 3 buttons. Whichever button had the most votes would decide the next scene.

My impression was that it wasn't that fun. The movie ended up being rowdier than a typical movie as people sometimes yelled out what decision they felt should be made. (It was a comedy and sort of encouraged that sort of thing.) The 3 choices were usually of the type "good", "neutral", or "bad" (or "a little", "a medium amount", and "a lot"). If I recall correctly (and I might not!) it tended towards the average (or neutral) for every choice. Furthermore, every time a choice needed to be made, they had to alert the audience that they could participate, which kind of takes you out of it.

That's on the viewing side. On the production side it is extremely resource intensive. A normal feature film is 90 minutes long. Even for a 30 (22) minute TV episode it becomes a lot of work. For every point where a decision needs to be made you double or triple the number of scenes you have to film. Let's say you have a 3-act sitcom style show that has 22 minutes of footage. The establishment is the same in all cases. It sets up the conflict that makes up the meat of the show. At the end of a 7 minute setup the audience decides what happens next, call it path A or path B. Now you allow viewers to make 1 decision during the conflict. So of the remaining 15 minutes, each path has 7 minutes of acting and then a decision. On path A, the decisions will be either C or D, and on path B they'll be either E or F. So you filmed 7 minutes for the establishment, 14 minutes for A and B, and 32 minutes(!) for C, D, E, and F. Your 22 minute show required 7 + 14 + 32 minutes = 53 minutes of acting, editing, direction, etc.

If this is a TV show, your next episodes now has 4 possible beginnings! Obviously, it doesn't have to work like that, but it does complicate things very quickly.

  • What was the movie?
    – iMerchant
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 8:12
  • I don't recall the name. If I remember correctly, the plot involved a nerdy guy who gets some sort of super powers. At one point a douchey guy parks in a handicap parking spot and the audience has to decide how the super hero is going to deal with him. That's really about all I remember about the actual movie. It was pretty terrible. Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 15:57

I'm not sure if it would make the movie more fun, because the question is inherently subjective (one's preferred story/ending) and, if this was a "in-theater" feature, it would always rely on a consensus of any given audience and therefor, if you were a person who wanted to experience all versions of the story, you would have to find different audience and possibly spend a lot more money!

In addition this would cost film-makers more money also by having way more additional scenes from a regular standard film and then it would also cost the theater more to maintain and update the technology needed to make choices. So the audience would also have to pay more for any version they see, let along all versions....

Then I can imagine the agony a professional critic would be going through to see all the different versions and offering an collage essay-long review by debating which version works vs which version doesn't and how exhausted even seeing three versions might be, before seeing a forth and how that may configure back into critic's review.

On top of that, there would be an argument that by creating certain narratives, the film is basically "fan-servicing" to point where the director and writers no longer have "creative freedom" to at least try and meet the Studio/Production Company half way to create a vision they see fit.

Now as DVD feature having things like alternate endings can be a rewarding experience, but I'm just not sure if this idea would really catch on or if it would ultimately frustrate and cheapen the traditional film experience.

However, as an experiment to collect data on how people judge films/story structure, might be interesting.

  • 1
    I know this is a year old answer to a closed question in a rarely used genre but I thought I should rebut your answer of money in the modern age: Sure, in movie theaters audiences could pay more, and then download the full version of the movie so they could watch it afterwards with their own choices (thereby buying the whole movie and the ticket viewing at the same time, giving more chances to sell the movie than ever before) or just buying a ticket and watching it with the audience that once, allowing for more ticket sales before the movie is eventually purchased to watch yet again.
    – Danejir
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 18:53
  • 1
    I've got two here, which is why the technology used to vote in a movie theater would easily be relegated to the voting system app you download that includes the full movie to watch afterwards at your own convenience, or even QR codes included on the back of tickets to scan for a single local webpage app run by the theater for each viewing, which would cost a few bucks at most to setup. Comparable to ancient showings like the $70,000 spent in the 90's to setup remote controls, we now all have the power in our pockets to control such events.
    – Danejir
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 18:55
  • Thanks for the update and I could see that working! :) Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 20:26

Money. The one and only reason is money.

You have a movie with two choice point and only two choices.
So, after the first choice you need to produce two different materials. After second choice you need to produce four different materials. So you need to spend money and time for 4 movies instead of one.

Now you know why they made LOST. And those thing on the screen you have. Oh, yeah, games.

For four different outcomes you would need to pay, as viewer, four times the regular price.

For the movie on DVD no one would want to spend such amount of money for "straight-to-DVD" production. Because it would be subpar to games as the replayability on the movie would be very low.


“What’s Your Story?” was a programme broadcast on The BBC between 1988 and 1990 in the UK.

Yes, you, the viewer can/could then ring up and determine how the storyline unfolds. And who narrates the whole affair? Oh it's the current Doctor Who - no not Peter Capaldi (It's 1988, remember?) - Sylvester McCoy!


The same page also mentions “Knightmare” which is a similar idea, but the way forward is decided by a team in the studio rather than the audience at home.

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