EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures and Sony Music Entertainment have already trumpeted record-breaking sales around the world for the upcoming movie compiled from Michael Jackson’s high-def concert rehearsal footage. (Photo above show Paris lines outside The Grand Rex, which sold out shortly after tickets went on sale.) But execs with the concert promoter AEG also capitalizing on the singer’s death are now openly predicting that This Is It will make a staggering “$250 million in its first 5 days”. And they claim the pic is already $5 million in the black even after Sony Pictures paid $60 million for the movie rights.
*UPDATE: The film is already #1 in ticket sales on big online movie ticketseller Fandango two weeks from release, outselling all of even this weekend’s new releases. This Is It has already sold out more than 1,000 showtimes on Fandango alone, and is outselling the previous bestselling limited-run concert film, Hannah Montana 3D, by a factor of 2 x1 at the same point in that film’s sales cycle. before its release date). Rick Butler, COO for Fandango, says theater owners are posting additional showtimes on multiple screens to meet the demand. “At this point in the film’s sales cycle, This Is It is outpacing Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince, Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen, and Star Trek as one of our top pre-sellers of the year.”*
This Is It debuts in some markets with special advance showings the evening of Tuesday, October 27, and will open worldwide on Wednesday, October 28, in a normal wide release of over 3,000 North American runs, plus day and date in all territories including China or 8,000 foreign screens. When I relayed AEG’s $250M-in-5-days figure to my Sony sources for their perspective, I received this response from one insider: “I dont know what they’re talking about. That would be bigger than Spider-Man and Harry Potter. It’s an event, but it’s still a movie.” Meanwhile, Sony execs are worried that moviegoers think all the shows are already sold-out because of the hype surrounding advance ticket sales. “We hope they know you can still go to the theater and get a ticket. It’s not like a concert.” Both AEG and Sony execs maintain they’re really only going to release the pic into theaters for a 2 week only run. But AEG sources are letting the cat out of the bag that plans are to bring This Is It back at a later date.
But this may be my favorite AEG revelation: that the rehearsal footage including meetings and auditions and other behind-the-scenes was only shot in the first place because Michael Jackson wanted it for his personal archive. And that when the whole pre-concert production began running wildly over its $25M budget, AEG almost stopped the HD crews from filming the rehearsals to cut costs. “Michael had no concept of budget,” an AEG insider reveals. “So the thought was we might as well fire the HD crew because there was no real plan to use the footage.” Let’s not forget that as soon as AEG executives involved in organizing Michael Jackson’s 50-night schedule of shows at London’s O2 arena learned of the performer’s death, they met at Staples Center in Los Angeles and secured all of the 100 hours of rehearsal footage which Michael Jackson had done there with the intent to turn it into live albums, a movie, and TV special. As Randy Phillips, president and CEO of AEG Live, has ghoulishly boasted to the media, “He was our partner in life and now he’s our partner in death.”