Sony bids millions for film of Michael Jackson's final rehearsals

Concert promoter AEG Live offers worldwide distribution rights for hours of filmed rehearsals

Sony Pictures has bid $50m (£30m) for footage of Michael Jackson's rehearsals of his ill-fated This Is It comeback tour, according to the Los Angeles Times. Jackson's concert promoter, AEG Live, offered the worldwide distribution rights for about 1,200 hours of film to all the major studios last week, prompting bids from Sony, Fox, Paramount and Universal, the LA Times reported. Before his sudden death, Jackson was preparing for a series of 50 concerts at the O2 Arena in London, a demanding schedule which had placed him under intolerable strain, the paper reported friends as saying.

A source told the LA Times hundreds of hours of high-definition video footage were shot during full dress rehearsals a week before Jackson went into cardiac arrest. He is said to be in apparently fine health in the film.

The winning studio would produce a film with AEG and his estate, with AEG eager to claw back the money it spent on producing the concert, estimated to be around $30m.

Sony Music distributes Jackson's recordings and is in a 50-50 partnership with his estate in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, putting its cinema arm in a strong negotiating position as the company would also benefit from the music licensing rights attached to the film.

"This type of a story, if put together right, could be very compelling and draw a very, very wide audience," Mark Fleischer, an entertainment attorney and former executive at MGM Studios, told the Associated Press.

An estimated 31 million viewers in the US alone watched the Jackson memorial service live earlier this month, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The late singer's estate and AEG are also negotiating with several television networks and pay-per-view outlets on a TV special that would be a stage show featuring Jackson's music and dancing and a number of big-name guests. It would be directed by This Is It director Kenny Ortega. Those rights are also likely to command tens of millions of dollars. NBC said it has been in talks with AEG over the TV show but no deal had been struck yet.

The special administrators of Jackson's estate, attorney John Branca and former music executive John McClain, have been moving quickly to secure Jackson's assets and attempt to capitalise on the surge in interest in the pop star since he died.

The pair were named as Jackson's executors in his 2002 will but the singer's mother is seeking to overturn the decision.


Haroon Siddique

The GuardianTramp

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