Today the Hollywood marketing tactic of creating artificial demand for “2-week limited engagement” movies officially went into the crapper. And I doubt that audiences will allow themselves to be conned again by this tacky studio manuever to drive up advance ticket sales. That’s because Sony announced it is extending Michael Jackson’s This Is It in the United States, Canada, and most territories around the world. This follows months of pronouncements by the studio that the pic would only run 2 weeks. Now the film will play through Thanksgiving weekend in the United States. Canada and most international territories will be announcing extensions of various lengths soon. In a press statement, Jeff Blake, the chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Worldwide Marketing & Distribution, explained: “In just 5 days, Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT has become the highest grossing concert film of all time and we are elated by the response to this special film by fans, critics and moviegoers from all over the world. With this kind of global response, it’s clear that the motion picture deserves an extended run and we are going to do everything we can to make the film available to everyone who wants to see Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT on the big screen.”
Sony also announced that, since the pic’s release on October 28 in theaters worldwide, THIS IS IT is now “the highest-grossing concert film of all-time” with a worldwide total of $101 million. The studio reported the estimated gross at $32.5 million domestically and $68.5 internationally in its first five days of release. That surpasses the record previously established by Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds (which had a lifetime worldwide gross of $71.3 million). But that’s not saying much. Michael Jackson was a global star, whereas the other concert pics either feature Disney Channel young’uns in artificially short runs, or famous acts like U2 and the Rolling Stones in very small release. Of course, it didn’t help that AEG, the concert promoter that auctioned off the movie rights to Jacko’s hi-def rehearsal footage filmed before his death, had predicted This Is It would make a staggering “$250 million in its first 5 days”. Or that a joint AEG/Sony news release had touted all the record-breaking presells recorded by the pic worldwide, thus setting up huge expectations for This Is It that weren’t met.
Sony reported that, overseas, THIS IS IT is the 5th biggest international opening of 2009 — again, an underwhelming statistic. Top grossing territories include: Japan $10.4M (3rd biggest opening of the year in Japan), UK $7.6M, Germany $6.3M, France $5.8M, Australia $3.6M, China $3.2M, Italy $2.9M, and Spain $2.6M, among others. Playing in 3,481 domestic locations, the movie opened to #1 in North America with $21.3 million for the 3-day weekend, averaging an estimated $6,119 per screen. Exit polling showed the opening weekend audience was almost evenly split between 49% males and 51% females with 62% of the audience over the age of 25.