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October 25, 2009

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Jacko film set to hit right notes

Heading toward its release on Wednesday, Michael Jackson movie "This Is It" looks like a box office winner for Sony's Columbia Pictures movie studio with one estimate saying it could make more than US$600 million worldwide in a limited two-week run.

Jackson's many fans are hungry for one last chance to see their idol sing and dance on screen, and the film's makers promise an image of him that is more like the pop star who ruled the charts in the 1980s, and less like the frail paparazzi target he seemed in recent years.

Industry watchers say the unique nature of "This Is It" -- part documentary and part concert film starring a legend who is no longer living -- makes it difficult to judge how successful it will be for Sony Corp unit Columbia Pictures because there are few, if any, comparisons to it.

Based on the US$60 million Columbia paid to release the film, plus marketing costs, and taking into account distribution fees it will earn, industry insiders predict the film needs to make just over US$100 million at worldwide box offices to profit.

Some experts said "This Is It," which opens in more than 3,400 theaters in the United States and Canada, could make US$40 million in those domestic markets during its first five days, but that is at the low end of estimates.

A rival studio executive who asked to remain anonymous said over its two-week run the film could make US$660 million globally -- US$260 million domestic and US$400 million internationally.

"This is a big win for Sony," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of tracking firm Hollywood.Com's box office division.

"The fact that (Columbia) was able to put this kind of a deal together quickly, and that they were able to obtain the rights, speaks volumes about their ability to get things done." Columbia has said the movie will be extended beyond its two-week run if ticket demand is high, and it plans to release the DVD for the movie in early 2010. "I'd say it's likely to be a big success," said industry analyst Harold Vogel.

"This Is It" is mostly composed of video footage of Jackson rehearsing for a series of concerts in the weeks before his unexpected June 25 death from an overdose of powerful drugs.


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