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Studios Scramble to Bring Jackson "This Is It" Rehearsals to Theaters

July 21, 2009 10:03 AM ET

Negotiations are reportedly underway between most of the major movie studios to secure the distribution rights to a film based on Michael Jackson's rehearsals for his planned This Is It concerts, the AP reports. According to the AP, executives from Sony, Paramount, Universal and 20th Century Fox were all shown rehearsal footage, and Sony Corp. reportedly offered $50 million for the distribution rights. Sony appears to be the likeliest destination for the film, as the company already distributes Jackson's catalog and has a 50/50 stake in the Sony/ATV Music Publishing deal with the Jackson estate. Footage of Jackson and his dancers performing "They Don't Care About Us" during rehearsals was previously unveiled.

Whoever wins the bidding war will produce the film along with AEG Live — the concert promoters staging the This Is It concerts, who filmed Jackson's rehearsals at Los Angeles' Staples Center — as well as the Jackson estate. The high bid seems to back AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips' claims that Michael was in good health during the rehearsals.

Additionally, AEG Live is also reportedly in talks to turn the This Is It concert into a TV special directed by Kenny Ortega, which could be the rumored all-star tribute discussed in the weeks following Jackson's death. NBC is reportedly the front runner to acquire the television special with the price somewhere in the tens of millions. As Rock Daily previously reported, 31 million viewers watched the Jackson memorial on TV and roughly 30 million more streamed the video online during its Tuesday afternoon simulcast, suggesting a TV special would likely produce just south of Super Bowl numbers.

According to the AP, John McClain and John Branca, the two men named as executors in Jackson's 2002 will, have been working quickly to secure deals for assets like the This Is It recordings in order to take advantage of the recent spike in Jackson-related sales. Since the King of Pop's death, Jackson's albums and compilations have surged up the charts from relative dormancy, and MTV reported yesterday that Jackson's Thriller is on the verge of usurping the Eagles' Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) as the highest-selling album of all time.

McClain is reportedly also digging through Jackson's vaults of unreleased material, a treasure trove that features songs like "A Place With No Name", a portion of which leaked last week.

Related Stories:
Michael Jackson Memorial Draws Big Audience, Huge Price Tag
Michael Jackson Remembered: Inside Rolling Stone's Special Issue
Michael Jackson Photos From "This Is It!" Rehearsals Emerge

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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