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Atari E.T. excavation film kicks off Xbox documentary series in 2014

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A new original documentary series about the rise of the digital age will debut exclusively on Xbox consoles next year, series creators Xbox Entertainment Studios and multiplatform media group Lightbox announced today.

This series is the first confirmed content to come from Xbox Entertainment Studios, the 125-person studio founded earlier this year to create "true interactive content" beyond video games for the Xbox brand. The studio is also working with 343 Industries and Stephen Spielberg on the Halo television series and reportedly a reality show about street soccer.

The series' premiere film will investigate the mysterious Alamogordo landfill in which developer Atari is rumored to have dumped millions of unsold copies of the E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial video game in 1983. Lightbox, in conjunction with Fuel Entertainment, will excavate the landfill and present the urban legends surrounding it with the greater context of Atari's company history.

Canadian company Fuel obtained permission from the New Mexico City Commission in May of this year to begin the excavation process and approached Xbox about the documentary. The episode will be directed by filmmaker and writer Zak Penn, whose credits include Incident at Loch Ness, The Avengers alongside Joss Whedon and X-Men: The Last Stand.

Shooting for the series will begin in January 2014. The films will be shown exclusively on Xbox 360 and Xbox One and will be available in all markets worldwide that currently support Xbox Live.

"I wasn't expecting to be handed the opportunity to uncover one of the most controversial mysteries of gaming lore."

"We are thrilled to be working with Xbox Entertainment Studios and Lightbox in connection with this project," Mike Burns, CEO of Fuel Entertainment, said in a press statement. "As an innovator in cross-platform entertainment, it has long been our dream to uncover this mystery and bring it to life on the screen."

"When [Lightbox directors] Simon and Jonathan Chinn approached me about this story, I knew it would be something important and fascinating," added Penn.  "I wasn't expecting to be handed the opportunity to uncover one of the most controversial mysteries of gaming lore."

Los Angeles-based Xbox Entertainment Studios was announced this past February as Microsoft geared up for the reveal of its next-generation console, the Xbox One. Nancy Tellem, president of Xbox Entertainment Studios and formerly of CBS, will lead the charge in the studio's creation of interactive and linear programming that will engage the Xbox audience in new ways. Xbox Entertainment is currently working on "a range of scripted interactive content," which will begin rolling out on Xbox 360 and Xbox One in the first quarter of next year.

Xbox Entertainment will co-produce the series alongside Lightbox's Jonathan Chinn, who worked on FX reality show 30 Days and PBS documentary American High, and two-time Academy Award winner Simon Chinn, known for his work on documentary films Searching for Sugar Man and Man on Wire.

"Our collaboration with Xbox offers an unparalleled opportunity to make a unique series of films around the extraordinary events and characters that have given rise to the digital age," said Simon Chinn in a press statement.

"Our goal is to produce a series of compelling and entertaining docs which will deploy all the narrative techniques of Simon's and my previous work. It's particularly exciting to be partnering with filmmakers like Zak Penn who come to this process from other filmmaking disciplines and who will bring their own distinctive creative vision to this," said Jonathan Chinn.

"Jonathan and Simon Chinn are the perfect team to spearhead this series for Xbox," Tellem added. "They are consummate story tellers and they plan to match their creative sensibility with the best talent in the industry. These stories will expose how the digital revolution created a global democracy of information, entertainment and commerce, and how it impacts our lives every day."