October 15, 2009 / 12:35 AM / 8 years ago

Michael Jackson film scores sellouts galore before opening

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Advance sales for “This Is It” look set to make the concert movie starring the late Michael Jackson into one of the hottest tickets of the year.

<p>People line up and prepare to stay overnight at L.A. Live for the opportunity to purchase tickets for special showings of the "Michael Jackson's This Is It" movie in Los Angeles, California, September 25, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>

Two weeks ahead of its opening, the singer’s concert movie “This Is It” has generated more than 1,600 sold out U.S. show times and is the top seller this week at two major online ticket outlets.

That puts “This Is It” in the same territory as next month’s highly anticipated “Twilight” sequel “New Moon” and other films that have generated high pre-release sales.

“The pre-sales activity all over the world has been nothing short of extraordinary,” Steve Elzer, a spokesman for Sony Corp-owned Columbia Pictures, the studio behind the film, told Reuters.

“But exhibitors have really met the demand by adding screens, and tickets are available for anyone who would want to see it, anytime,” Elzer said.

“This Is It” is composed of footage of the “Thriller” singer rehearsing for a series of London comeback concerts just before his unexpected June 25 death, at age 50, from an overdose of powerful medication.

The studio has said the 112-minute movie will have a limited two-week engagement around the world, starting October 28.

<p>People line up and prepare to stay overnight at L.A. Live for the opportunity to purchase tickets for special showings of the "Michael Jackson's This Is It" movie in Los Angeles, September 25, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>

Online ticket seller Fandango.com reported that it has sold out more than 1,000 showtimes in the United States for “This Is It” on its site alone. Competing outlet MovieTickets.com said it has generated more than 600 sold out showtimes.

“This Is It” has generated the second highest pre-sales figures of the year for Fandango, just behind forthcoming vampire romance “New Moon,” which saw tickets go on sale a month before advance tickets for “This Is It” became available.

Both Fandango and MovieTickets, the two top U.S. online ticket sellers, said “This Is It” is on-pace to become their top concert movie ever.

<p>People line up and prepare to stay overnight at the L.A. Live complex for the opportunity to purchase tickets for special showings of the "Michael Jackson's This Is It" movie in Los Angeles, September 25, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>

For now, the 2008 film “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour” is the biggest concert movie ever for the online ticket sellers. It made more than $70.6 million at worldwide box offices but played in fewer than 700 U.S. theaters.

Sony Pictures, which paid $60 million for the footage of Jackson in the film, is aiming to outpace the “Hannah Montana” movie, as “This Is It” is expected to play on about 3,500 screens in the U.S. and Canada alone.

Aside from that, Sony plans to ship more than 8,500 prints of the film to exhibitors in 75 countries, for a near simultaneous worldwide release of the film.

Sony said last month that international sales for “This Is It” have been particularly strong in Japan and Britain.

Jackson was scheduled to play 50 shows in London starting last July 13. Concert promoter AEG Live was involved in the deal to sell its rehearsal footage to Columbia for the movie, which also benefits Jackson’s estate and his family.

Editing by Jill Serjeant and Bill Trott

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