LONDON (Reuters) - Michael Jackson fans poured out of cinemas around the world on Wednesday applauding a new movie about the singer which they said proved he deserved the title King of Pop.
Their excitement at the heavily hyped release of “This Is It” was mixed with sadness that one of history’s biggest music stars and most troubled celebrities died before he could bring his live comeback to the stage.
This Is It was cut from 80 hours of film of the singer’s rehearsals for 50 London concerts planned from July which he had envisaged both as a comeback after years of living as a recluse and a final farewell to live performance.
“It’s great!” wrote Karen Portem on the Facebook social networking site, having seen the movie on its first day of release in the Philippines. “But it’s so sad to think that people ... aren’t able to see M.J. perform it live.”
Critics have been largely positive, describing the film as a fitting tribute to a star who fascinated the world with his slick dance moves and versatile vocals as well as his increasingly bizarre appearance and legal troubles.
Jackson died suddenly on June 25 in Los Angeles at the age of 50 after suffering cardiac arrest, just as he was about to return to the limelight and put behind him the stigma of a sensational 2005 trial where he was acquitted of child molestation charges.
He grew up as one of Motown legends The Jackson 5, made the gliding “moonwalk” famous the world over and still has the best-selling album of all time with his 1982 “Thriller.”
After a star-studded opening in Los Angeles on Tuesday night attended by four of Jackson’s brothers, and premieres in many other cities, the film was to go on show in up to 99 countries by Wednesday, expanding to about 110 territories by the weekend.
In central Taipei, a handful of Jackson impersonators danced to entertain the hundreds of people queuing to see the documentary and in Beijing, several fans said the movie was their last chance to see the star in action.
“I have been waiting for this movie for many months and this is our last hope to see Michael’s final, excellent performance,” said a tearful woman who gave her name as Sha Sha.
Sony Corp’s Columbia Pictures bought the movie rights from concert promoter AEG Live for a reported $60 million and has described ticket demand as “phenomenal.”
Columbia said the movie will be extended beyond its two-week run if ticket demand is high and also plans to release the DVD for the movie in early 2010.
Early indications are that the movie will be a winner for Sony with ticket sales expected to run to several hundreds of millions of dollars. In Britain, Odeon, the biggest cinema chain, reported strong sales of 100,000 as of Wednesday morning.
Despite a largely successful launch, a small number of Jackson fans raised objections to This Is It, which they said concealed the “dire state” of Jackson’s health in his final days and exploited the singer, who leaves behind three children.
“In the weeks leading up to ... Jackson’s death, while this footage was being shot, people around him knew that he looked like he might have died,” said website this-is-not-it.com.
“Those who stood to make a profit chose to ignore it. What would have been a limited series of concerts in London has now turned into a global cinema and merchandising event, generating huge amounts of extra profit for AEG, Sony and many more.”
Officials have ruled that Jackson’s heart stopped due to an overdose of sedatives and the powerful anesthetic propofol, which is used in surgery. The film does not go into his death.
Writing by Mike Collett-White and Belinda Goldsmith; additional reporting by Daniel Munoz in Sydney and Reuters bureaux; Editing by Steve Addison