LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Michael Jackson movie "This Is It" earned $20.1 million at worldwide box offices on its first day in theaters as fans around the globe turned out in strong numbers, Columbia Pictures said on Thursday.
The movie studio said the film, which shows the late pop star rehearsing for a series of comeback concerts before his death in June, made $7.4 million in the United States and Canada, and another $12.7 million internationally.
"The studio believes that the worldwide launch, with very strong performance across North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia, represents an amazing beginning for the film and a reaffirmation of the global appeal of Michael Jackson," Columbia Pictures spokesman Steve Elzer said in a statement.
Finding comparable films to "This Is It" is difficult because of the movie's unusual nature as a hybrid documentary and concert film, as well as the fact that its star was not alive to promote it.
Moreover, "This Is It" premiered on Tuesday night and then began playing around the world on Wednesday, which is unusual for a movie that is not based on a major franchise like the "Harry Potter" or "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.
"It's difficult to make comparisons because there is nothing like this," said Paul Dergarabedian, who runs box office tracker Hollywood.com Box Office.
Among concert films, one top performer recently was 2008's "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour." It enjoyed an opening, three-day weekend of $31 million, starting on a Friday, and went on to earn just over $70.6 million globally during its entire run.
Another recent music movie was 2008's "U2 3D," which earned a total of $16.6 million worldwide during its entire release.
Columbia Pictures paid $60 million to distribute the film and millions more to market it. Columbia is a unit of the Sony Corp's Sony Pictures Entertainment media group.
In the United Kingdom, box offices rang up just under $2 million, while French sales totaled about $1.4 million, and Germany just over $1 million. Japanese fans spent roughly $1.2 million, and in China, the movie delivered $730,000.
The question now for Columbia is how well the movie will perform during the upcoming, first weekend. Jackson's fans were expected to turn out in droves early, but whether they will be repeat customers remains to be seen.
Columbia has said the movie will be extended beyond its planned two-week run if ticket demand is high, and it plans a DVD release in 2010.
Jackson died on June 25 in Los Angeles at age 50 after suffering cardiac arrest brought on by a drug overdose only weeks before he was to have begun the "This Is It" concerts in London. The shows had been hyped in the media as his chance to erase the stigma of a 2005 trial in which he was acquitted of child molestation charges.
The nearly two-hour movie features Jackson singing and dancing to his biggest hits, including "Beat It," "Black or White" and "Man in the Mirror." Throughout the film, audiences see him working to create a show that would wow fans.
Editing by Will Dunham