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Michael Jackson Film Thrills Global Audiences

Michael Jackson's much-hyped concert movie reigned at the worldwide box office Sunday, but its performance in North America was hardly a thriller.

"This Is It," composed mostly of rehearsal footage recorded in the weeks before the "King of Pop's" death in June, earned an estimated $101 million in the five days since opening globally Wednesday, distributor Columbia Pictures said.

Moviegoers in the United States and Canada contributed $32.5 million. In the days leading up to its opening, industry forecasters had said it could earn at least $40 million.

Columbia said it had hoped for an opening in the $30 million to $40 million range.

"This has always, always been a worldwide play," said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution at Columbia's parent Sony. "We're very happy with the results domestically, but ecstatic with the worldwide."

Top territories included Japan with $10.4 million, Britain with $7.6 million, Germany with $6.3 million, France with $5.8 million, Australia with $3.6 million and China with $3.2 million.

Rival studios, perhaps looking to put Sony in the hot seat, had been particularly bullish about the film. One executive, requesting anonymity, predicted the film could make $660 million globally during its limited two-week run — $260 million domestically and $400 million internationally.

Columbia had shied away from issuing global forecasts because of a dearth of comparable concert films. The record for such movies is held by "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus — Best of Both Worlds," which earned $65 million domestically last year.

The film's prospects were not helped by Halloween, which fell on a Saturday for the first time since 1998, siphoning off a large swathe of potential North American moviegoers on the biggest night of the week.

Columbia said it extended the planned two-week limited run in North America through Thanksgiving (Nov. 29). Foreign territories will extend the run on a case-by-case basis.

The studio paid Jackson's estate and closely held concert promoter AEG about $60 million for the rights, but will deduct the production costs from its tab. As for box office revenues, which are usually split evenly with movie theater owners, Sony will share its haul with the estate and AEG according to a complex, undisclosed formula.

Columbia's sister company, Sony Music, has done much better with Jackson's recordings. His albums have sold more than 5.7 million copies this year in the United States, according to tracking firm Nielsen SoundScan.

For the traditional three-day period, beginning Friday, "This Is It" earned $21.3 million.

Last weekend's North American champ, Paramount Pictures' micro-budget horror flick "Paranormal Activity," slipped to No. 2 with $16.5 million in its sixth weekend, taking its total to $84.8 million. Paramount is a unit of Viacom.

No other new releases dared compete with Halloween festivities.

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