On the day before Halloween, audiences around the world will be treated to a thriller of a theatrical experience—Michael Jackson’s final concert.
And it’s going to be big.
“It’s going to be staggering, overwhelming,” says Ashley Dos Santos, a senior account executive at Crosby~Volmer International Communications. “It could be the biggest concert movie of all time.”
Sony Pictures has acquired the right to distribute a film stitched together from hundreds of hours of footage of Jackson rehearsing for his “This Is It” tour, which would have opened in London last month and run for 50 shows. The rehearsals were filmed in high definition and parts of the concert movie will be shown in 3D.
“People who have seen this footage are astounded by the amazing quality of Michael Jackson’s performance,” says Sony Pictures chief executive Michael Lynton. “The historic recording of the last time he sang and danced on stage shows the legendary artist in an incredibly powerful way, with crystal clear images and sound.”
The film will definitely be a draw for the thousands of people who were lucky enough to snag tickets to one of Jackson’s London shows. But more important, it will allow the millions of Jackson’s other worldwide fans to see the King of Pop in action one last time.
Dale Hurst, director of marketing at Carmike Cinemas, says he was initially concerned by the announcement, fearing it was too soon after Jackson’s sudden death to release a biopic about the singer’s life. But he was relieved when he learned that it would be a concert film and thinks Jackson’s fans will turn out in droves.
“There’s definitely going to be an audience for this movie,” Hurst says
Carmike was one of many theater chains that opened their auditoriums to show Jackson’s memorial service live. Hurst says as many as 400 people showed up at some locations to watch.
“Those people who did attend were able to mourn together. It was heartwarming,” he says.
In the days after Jackson’s death, concert promoter AEG Live, which was behind the tour, released a short video showing Jackson rehearsing just hours before the entertainer was found dead in his Los Angeles home. That clip was viewed millions of times on YouTube and on prime time television specials, showing the enormous interest among fans to see the King of Pop perform again.
Sony paid $60 million for the domestic and international distribution rights. Jackson’s family will receive 90 percent of the fee and has said it will establish a charity in the singer’s name.
Dos Santos predicts that pre-sales for This Is It will set records. She said that given Jackson’s huge following outside the U.S., the film will likely play just as strong internationally as domestically.
“We’re seeing a resurgence of the concert film,” Dos Santos said, pointing to the success of the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour film, which was shown in 3D.
Even if Jackson had not died, a concert film would have been a smash hit, she says.
And there are sure to be multiple releases of the film on DVD, given the hours of extra rehearsal footage available, interviews and other extra features that drive sales.
“For Sony, this is an amazing money maker for them,” she says.