This Is It: Jackson Film Out in October

LOS ANGELES ~ Fans saddened by Michael Jackson’s sudden death on June 25 before a long-awaited return to the stage may find comfort in a film showing his final rehearsals to be released at the end of October.

This Is It, to be released worldwide starting on October 30, will be drawn from hundreds of hours of backstage footage of Jackson rehearsing and feature interviews with some of his closest friends and creative collaborators, Sony studios announced this week.

It is named after the series of 50 London concerts the star had planned to perform for his July farewell – before his death from an apparent cardiac arrest on June 25 at a rented mansion in Los Angeles shocked the world.

Sony said the film “will offer Jackson fans and music lovers worldwide a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the performer, his career and the stage spectacular that would have been.”

Most of the footage was shot in June 2009 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, home of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and the site of the Jackson tribute watched by millions of people around the world. Other scenes were shot at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

The footage was “captured in high definition with state-of-the-art digital sounds,” Sony said, adding that select sequences would be in 3-D.

Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment will co-produce the film with AEG Live and the estate, while Sony Pictures will distribute the feature, which would amount to a major undertaking as Jackson had not commercialized concert footage.

Kenny Ortega, Jackson’s creative partner on the This Is It concerts, said “the world will see what our team was so fortunate to experience, which was the full commitment, passion and creativity that Michael put into this project.”

The film, he added, “will show Michael as he truly was, creatively involved with every aspect of the production, from the staging and choreography, to the music, lighting, production design and conception of the original short films and video backdrops.”

Neither Sony nor the court released figures of the deal reached with Jackson’s estate and concert promoters AEG Live, but media reports said Sony paid US$60 million for rights to the footage.

The pop icon’s mother, Katherine Jackson, also gave her support to the multimillion-dollar deal approved by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Beckloff.

AEG Live has yet to give its approval on the sharing of profits from the distribution of the footage.

But Beckloff did not validate contracts with AEG and merchandiser Bravado International Group to market Jackson memorabilia and organize an exhibition of the singer’s belongings.

“I’m not sure I can approve anything without anyone here for the children,” he said. “I think everyone’s interests are similar. I feel sorry the result is something you don’t like today, but I feel I don’t have an option.”

Instead, Beckloff said he would appoint a special guardian to represent the financial interests of Jackson’s three orphaned children, Prince Michael, 12, Paris, 11, and seven-year-old Prince Michael II, during business negotiations.

The film announcement also came as the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said it had completed a “thorough and comprehensive” autopsy but would not release the results until police complete their investigation, further prolonging the mystery surrounding the circumstances of Jackson’s death.

The LAPD said it had requested that “the cause and manner of death remain confidential” and that an existing “security hold” on the results of the coroner’s investigation remain in place.

The continued security measures, the LAPD said, “will help maintain the integrity of the investigation and allow investigators from LAPD’s Robbery Homicide Division, as well as our partner law enforcement agencies to continue their investigation.”

The singer’s reported addiction to painkillers and sedatives is believed to have been behind his death at the age of 50.

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