The day Michael Jackson fans from around the world have been waiting for is finally here.
"This Is It" - the much debated, controversial and expensive concert-documentary film, compiled with footage of Jackson's final rehearsals - starts playing tonight, in 3500 theaters in the U.S. and simultaneous premiers in 16 cities across the globe.
This will be a huge movie event; it's expected to dominate this weekend's box office, with industry experts projecting as much as a $40 million gross in the US.
If "This is It" is as huge as it's expected to be, it's great news for Sony . It will also boost theater chains like Regal Entertainment and Cinemarkin terms of advance sales and as eager Jackson fans who have made an "event" out of a night at the cinema splurge on popcorn and Jujubes.
It could also bode well for the future of "alternative" programming in theaters. Sony is among the companies leading the charge with producing content other than movies, like sporting events, Opera, video game demos and competitions, which is now feasible thanks to digital distribution
Sony paid sixty million dollars to concert promoter AEG Live for the distribution rights to the film, and should get its money's worth with a very savvy marketing approach.
Despite the fact that it's been four months since Jackson passed away, Sony has done a great job of building excitement, keeping awareness high, and making sure Jackson fans don't miss the event.
That seems to have paid off - some 1,600 theater showings of the film in the U.S. have reportedly been already sold out.
- Sony Looks for Box Office Hit with "This Is It"
- Key Facts About Michael Jackson
The fact that the movie is ready to debut just a few months after the rights to the footage were sorted out is pretty amazing.
Never has there been a posthumous concert film from such a huge star, and certainly nothing turned around this fast. The closest recent comparison was probably Heath Ledger in Warner Bros. "The Dark Knight." Interest in his critically acclaimed performance, and the film, intensified after his death and was considered partly responsible for the film's huge success.
Of course, these days, there's no such thing as a cultural "moment" without the influence of social media. Elizabeth Taylor "tweeted" a review of the movie (That's right, Liz Taylor is on Twitter).
"This Is It" is directed by Kenny Ortega, who is known for elaborate choreographed musical numbers, and is the man behind Disney's three High School Musical films.
It's hard to know how much Ortega had to work with when Jackson died, but his take worked for Disney and it looks like it'll work again for Sony.