PBS’ ‘Fall’ preview

Burns' docu series to screen in feature format

Doc master Ken Burns is showing off a feature-length version of his upcoming PBS series “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson” in special digital cinema screenings around the country in advance of its PBS broadcast window.

Pic is rolling out through Gotham banner Emerging Pictures, which is developing a national digital theater chain.

Burns’ 100-minute HD cut of the film is set to screen through Emerging in Gotham as well as markets including Denver; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Oklahoma City; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Lincoln, Neb.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Red Bank, N.J. Venues include arthouses as well as museums and other cultural institutions.

Screenings are free of charge and are being used by PBS stations to pump up the series and, in some cases, for membership drives.

“Johnson” is set to air on PBS Jan. 17 and 18 in its full 214-minute format.

Pic has screened previously in film fests, in New York, Toronto and Telluride.

Burns is part of an ongoing campaign to win a posthumous presidential pardon for Jackson, the early 20th-century boxing great who was wrongly convicted of a federal crime and fled the country as a result in 1913.

“Earlier festival screenings had already demonstrated to me that the film played exceptionally well on a large screen,” the “Civil War” helmer said. “Participating stations are using their local events to not only promote the actual series broadcast dates, but as an additional high-profile membership drive opportunity. Whatever we can do to support not only this show, but all of PBS, is very important to me, the stations and to viewers.”

Burns has signed on to Emerging’s advisory board as a result of the new venture.