Francis Ford Coppola is turning big-screen movies into a live experience.
The filmmaker showed an audience at the Comic-Con fan convention Saturday portions of his upcoming creepy tale "Twixt," a film whose theatrical release he hopes to precede by a national tour in which Coppola will oversee a different version each night.
Coppola says digital technology allows him to add scenes, lengthen or shorten sequences, shuffle the action around, alter music and make other tweaks depending on how that night's audience is responding to the film.
"If the audience is the mood to go off on a little bit of a tangent, then you'd be able to go off on a tangent, but if the audience seems to want to cut to the chase, you could cut to the chase," Coppola said in an interview after his presentation.
Filmmakers often have the experience in test screenings where they sense viewers' interest lagging and the "audience is not so into it, so you go, 'Oh, I wish the good part would come sooner, I wish the good part would come sooner,'" Coppola said. "With this, you can do that."
"Twixt" stars Val Kilmer as a writer on a book tour in a strange town where he's caught up in the mystery of savage killings and has ghostly encounters with a young girl (Elle Fanning) and the specter of Edgar Allan Poe (Ben Chaplin). The idea actually originated from a dream Coppola had two years ago about a mysterious girl and in which Poe appeared as sort of a spirit guide.
The film also will include a blend of 2-D and 3-D. Coppola is a fan of 3-D but does not necessarily like wearing the special glasses needed for the whole length of a film. He said he watched most of "Avatar" with the glasses off and put them on only for big effects and action scenes when the 3-D was most prevalent.
Viewers of "Twixt" will see an on-screen cue letting them know they should put on their glasses for a 3-D scene in the heart of the film and a 3-D finale, Coppola said.
Comic-Con — where thousands of fans gather dressed as superheroes, villains, fairy-tale princesses and other fantastic characters — seems like an odd spot for the filmmaker behind "The Godfather" saga to turn up. But he's been here before, to promote his 1992 take on "Dracula."
Coppola had wanted to do his live tour just before this Halloween, but the film does not yet have a distributor for general release. He is premiering the full film at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and hopes to land a distributor after that so he could release "Twixt" next spring, with his live, interactive tour coming just before that for about three weeks.
"I consider it more what I call malleable cinema than interactive," Coppola said. "Because I didn't shoot it with real alternative plot nines. I could have, but I was thinking of it more as a Halloween show that you tailor to the audience. Not, does he go into the left door or the right door? And if he goes into the left door, that's a different story."