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Xbox Digs Into History of Atari, ‘E.T. the Video Game’ for New Docuseries

Zak Penn to direct first installment to launch in 2014 as one of Xbox's first original shows

Xbox is digging deep into the video game industry’s past as it prepares to launch its first slate of shows on its consoles in the very near future.

Filmmakers Simon Chinn (“Searching for Sugar Man” and “Man on Wire”) and Jonathan Chinn (“30 Days” and “American High”) will produce the yet-to-be titled documentary series through their multiplatform shingle Lightbox. Series explores the events and colorful characters that established the digital age, with each seg being helmed by a different director.

“X-Men 2”-scribe Zak Penn will direct the first installment that investigates Atari’s now legendary burial of millions of unsold copies of “E.T. the Video Game” in a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico, in the middle of the night in 1983. Lightbox will film the excavation of the landfill by Fuel Entertainment to determine whether the incident is an urban myth or a true tale that led to the demise of Atari.

“When Simon and Jonathan Chinn approached me about this story, I knew it would be something important and fascinating,” Penn said. “I wasn’t expecting to be handed the opportunity to uncover one of the most controversial mysteries of gaming lore.”

Xbox Entertainment Studios said the series, which begins production in January, will debut exclusively on the Xbox One and Xbox 360 in 2014 worldwide through Xbox Live.

“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,” Jonathan Chinn said. “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.”

Project is one of the first to get the greenlight from Nancy Tellem, president of Xbox Entertainment Studios, who also has moved forward with another documentary series, “Every Street United,” that revolves around street soccer players around the world. A series based on Microsoft’s “Halo” franchise is also being developed by Steven Spielberg.

At Variety’s Dealmakers Breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles last week, Tellem said developing Xbox’s first slate of original shows has taken longer than she expected, but it’s now ready to launch its first shows in the new year.

SEE ALSO: Microsoft to Launch First Original Shows on Xbox in Early 2014

Tellem called the Chinn cousins “consummate story tellers” who will “expose how the digital revolution created a global democracy of information, entertainment and commerce, and how it impacts our lives every day.” The series for Xbox is the first project to emerge from their recently-launched unscripted company, which has headquarters in both London and Los Angeles.

Lightbox is represented by CAA and Jeanne Newman at Hansen Jacobson.

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