New York-basedEmerging Pictures is preparing to launch its long-gestating digital cinemanetwork with the backing of former eBay founder Jeff Skoll's Los Angeles-basedParticipant Productions.

The initiativewill establish a nationwide network for the distribution and exhibition ofspecialty films in museums, performing arts centres, science and technologyinstitutions, and restored movie palaces.

The venues willscreen English-language and foreign narrative and documentary titles, as wellas alternate content like film festivals, dramatic performances, concerts, andother appropriate programming.

EmergingPictures co-founder Ira Deutchman told that the company wouldbegin installing projection equipment and servers at under-utilised venuesimmediately.

Deutchman addedthat the company would seek to establish partnerships with US arthousedistributors to ensure a steady flow of content.

The firstscreenings will take place in association with the Full Frame Documentary FilmFestival, which runs from Apr 7-10, when Emerging will syndicate the event inreal-time into more than a dozen US cities.

Beyond that,programming will continue with various presentations in association with PBS,National Geographic Television & Film, and Japan's NHK, among others.

"We're extremelypleased to have the support of Jeff Skoll and we share Participant's goal offacilitating the creation of socially responsible media," Emerging Picturesco-founders Deutchman, Giovanni Cozzi, and Barry Rebo said.

"We are excitedby the prospect of providing these types of films as well as others toaudiences who have affinity for a quality cinema experience."

"We applaudtheir vision of an alternative distribution channel that leverages existingcommunity venues and provides new opportunities for filmmakers to reach willingaudiences," Skoll added.

In a separatedeal, Participant and Emerging Pictures have formed a content-baseddistribution partnership that will span the reach of Participant Production'sprojects.

Participant was set up in January 2004 with the aim ofworking on socially relevant pictures. It recently signed a two-picture dealwith Warner Bros for Stephen Gaghan's Syriana starring George Clooney, Matt Damon and Amanda Peet, and ClassAction, Niki Caro's follow-up to WhaleRider that stars Charlize Theron andFrances McDormand.