EXCLUSIVE: Michael Jackson, who reportedly earned $275 million posthumously over the past year for his estate, isn’t slowing down anytime soon. I’m told that GK Films is in active negotiations to acquire a package for a film that is being fashioned around his groundbreaking hit song Thriller. The film, which has been quietly shopped over the past several weeks by Real Effects Entertainment, has Kenny Ortega attached to direct, and The Hangover scribe Jeremy Garelick to write the screenplay. While GK is in the driver’s seat, I’m told that Fox 2000, Mandate/Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment are all in the mix on what will shape up as a pricey rights deal, but which will turn out to be a film budgeted at under $50 million. Plot is being kept under wraps but I understand it has to do with the song’s folklore, involving Vincent Price and the town he grew up in. All of this deal making is subject to a deal being completed with Jackson’s estate, but that has been in the works for some time and is expected to be sealed. Thriller songwriter Rod Temperton is also in the mix. On top of the Thriller deal, I’ve heard that Cirque du Soleil is in talks to do two live shows based on Jackson’s music, and that Montecito partners Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock are looking to do a feature about Jackson’s younger years.
There is symmetry to GK in that the deal is being spearheaded by GK Films president Peter Schlessel. While at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Schlessel made the deal for This Is It!, the feature film that Ortega directed which used rehearsal footage from what was expected to be Jackson’s farewell tour. That film was profitable for SPE, and it is likely that GK Films will distribute Thriller through its SPE output deal. UTA reps Garelick and Reel Effects, while Paradigm reps Ortega.