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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sony could be winner in Michael Jackson film rights

If indeed this is it, these guys are gonna make a fortune.

Sony Pictures is negotiating to pony up a whopping $50 million to concert promoter AEG Live to release a feature-film documentary chronicling Michael Jackson's final days.

Kenny Ortega, the acclaimed director and choreographer behind the High School Musical flicks who was mounting the King of Pop's "This Is It" megaresidency set for London's O2 Arena before the latter's sudden death, is said to be hard at work cutting the behind-the-scenes together.

But the good news for AEG is that with O2 gigs now scuttled, Ortega now has plenty of time to edit the highly anticipated concert film before he beats it to work on a big-screen redo of Footloose.

An insider privy to the confidential negotiations tells E! News that talks are ongoing but stressed that Sony is up against several rival studios—including Universal, Fox, Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures—also bidding for distribution rights. A winner could be announced as early as this week.

However, it seems likely Sony will have a leg up, particularly given sister company, Sony Music Entertainment, put out all six of Jackson's solo albums, including top sellers Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad, Dangerous and HIStory, through its Epic label. It also co-owns the Beatles catalog with the singer's ATV Publishing.

Sources tell Variety the movie will feature a number of performances from more than 80 hours of footage AEG and the helmer shot of Jackson's rehearsals in addition to at least three videos Jackson completed that was going to run as interstitials during the concerts which were scheduled to kick off July 13. It's unclear whether those segments, including an alternate version of the Moonwalker's now classic Thriller video, will play in 3-D in theaters as its creators envisioned for the London productions.

The promoter will no doubt rake in big bucks from sales of TV and video rights not only from the documentary but also a tribute concert it's purportedly organizing at the O2 for what would have been Jackson's 51st birthday Aug. 29. AEG is seeking a number of high-profile artists to perform one song each from Michael's set list, accompanied by the dancers and musicians who rehearsed with Jackson.

No confirmation yet on who's slated to take part, though early word is that the music legend's surviving brothers in the Jackson 5, Jermaine, Marlon, Tito and Randy, will reunite. Also said to be on board is Justin Timberlake, who previously performed with Jackson at his 30th anniversary solo show at New York's Madison Square Garden in 2001.


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