'This Is It' film premieres worldwide

“This Is It”, a film featuring the rehearsal sessions of Michael Jackson’s comeback concert, makes its world debut on Tuesday. Jackson’s “last performance” will be screened simultaneously in more than 15 venues, in five continents.


AFP - Michael Jackson fans will get a poignant glimpse of what might have been as a movie charting the tragic singer's rehearsals for his concert comeback makes it worldwide debut on Tuesday.

More than 100 hours of behind-the-scenes footage for Jackson's aborted return to the stage have been distilled into a two-hour film hyped by organizers as the last ever performance by the "King of Pop."

Jackson family members and fans will gather at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles for a 6:00 pm (0100 GMT Wednesday) premiere, one of more than 15 simultaneous screenings held across five continents in a reflection of the pop icon's global reach.

"This Is It" will go on a limited two-week release in theaters worldwide starting Wednesday, with advance tickets in several countries selling out within days of going on sale last month.

"It's a movie about rehearsing for a concert that never happened," Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal said in a recent interview.

Jackson, who died on June 25 aged 50, had spent the previous four months rehearsing in Los Angeles for a gruelling series of 50 concert spectaculars scheduled to begin at London's 02 Arena in July.

More than 800,000 tickets had been sold for the concerts, with organizers promising one of the "most expensive and technically advanced" live shows ever.

Jackson was putting the finishing touches to the show at the time of his death, which authorities in Los Angeles have ruled a homicide.

Video footage from the rehearsals had been intended to help organizers critique the show and was never intended for public viewing. Sony bought the footage for 60 million dollars after executives saw only several minutes.

Sony has said an "unprecedented number" of shows across the United States have sold out and other cities -- including London, Sydney, Bangkok and Tokyo -- experienced similar levels of demand after tickets went on sale in September.

Analyst Jeff Bock of box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations said the film could "play bigger than Elvis."

"This is more of a memorial than a movie," Bock told AFP. "I think we could be looking at 70 to 100 million dollars in the first five days alone, which is extraordinary for this type of film.

The movie got an early stamp of approval from Jackson's long-time friend and confidante, actress Elizabeth Taylor.

Taylor, who recently underwent heart surgery, hailed the movie as the "single most brilliant piece of filmmaking I have ever seen" in a tweet on micro-blogging site Twitter.

"It cements forever Michael's genius in every aspect of creativity."

Despite the anticipation surrounding the film, a group of diehard Jackson fans have launched an online campaign urging devotees of the singer to boycott the movie, claiming it hides the truth about his final days.

The group claims on its website -- "This-Is-Not-It" -- that the movie attempts to mask Jackson's physical frailty as he maintained a punishing schedule of rehearsals.

"In the weeks leading up to Michael Jackson's death, while this footage was being shot, people around him knew that he looked like he might have died," the group said. "Those who stood to make a profit chose to ignore it."

Associates of Jackson have insisted the star was in good health during the rehearsals.

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