Michael Jackson fans around the world readied for the singer’s last bow Tuesday in a film that captures rehearsals for his aborted concert stand last summer.
From early evening in Los Angeles to late night in New York City, from the pre-dawn hours in Europe to business hours in Asia and elsewhere, “Michael Jackson: This Is It” arrives simultaneously in the biggest cinematic blowout ever for a music film.
Opening in 99 countries Tuesday and Wednesday, the film expands to 110 territories by this weekend, with distributor Sony putting 15,000 prints of “This Is It” into circulation.
The simultaneous showings around the globe will be anchored by a star-studded premiere at the Nokia Theatre, a concert venue across the street from Staples Center, where many of Jackson’s rehearsals — and his high-profile public memorial — were held.
Longtime Jackson collaborator Kenny Ortega, who directed and produced “This Is It,” is expected to attend, as are members of Jackson’s band and the executors of his will. Entertainers including Snoop Dogg, Smokey Robinson and Zac Efron are also on the 5,500-member guest list.
The plaza in front of the Nokia Theatre was transformed into an elegant red-carpet arrivals area, with a dozen crystal chandeliers, displays of Jackson’s past costumes and “This Is It” spelled out in giant letters.
A few lucky fans won seats along the red carpet, while others filled the surrounding area, cameras in hand. Jackson’s hits played on a loudspeaker.
Johnny Kuhn of San Pedro, Calif., won tickets to the premiere and came downtown early with his wife and two sons to take in the scene. He said he expected “This Is It” would be “happy and sad.”
“We’ve lost a legend,” Kuhn said.
Many fans waited in line for days to buy tickets for advance screenings of “This Is It” at the new Regal Cinemas on site, whose which will show the film to sold-out audiences for its grand opening Tuesday on all 14 of its screens.
“For that to be our first movie … the energy and excitement in the auditorium tonight is going to be phenomenal,” said Russ Nunley, spokesman for Regal Entertainment Group.
The film, culled from more than 100 hours of rehearsal footage, shows an enthusiastic King of Pop meticulously crafting his moves and performing some of his most beloved hits. No critics have seen it, but Sony — which paid $60 million for the film rights — showed a 12-minute clip to entertainment journalists last week.
Some of Jackson’s family members and friends have seen “This Is It” in its entirety. Elizabeth Taylor, a longtime friend of the pop star, posted her thoughts Monday on Twitter.
“It is the single most brilliant piece of filmmaking I have ever seen,” she wrote on the micro-blogging site. “It cements forever Michael’s genius in every aspect of creativity.”
The 77-year-old actress added that she “wept from pure joy at his God-given gift” and urged her fans to see the film “again and again.”
The film has potential all-ages appeal, with the Motion Picture Association of America giving it a family-friendly PG rating for “some suggestive choreography and scary images.”
Clocking in at one hour, 51 minutes, “This Is It” plays in a limited run of just over two weeks, lending it some of the exclusivity that had been intended for the concerts Jackson had planned in London.
“We think the 16 days is right. It’s sort of a special event that you want to frame in a special way,” said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony.
Jackson died June 25 at age 50. The Los Angeles County coroner has ruled the death a homicide, caused primarily by the powerful anesthetic propofol and another sedative. Jackson’s personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, has not been charged with a crime but is the focus of the police investigation.
Jackson’s 50 comeback concerts at London’s O2 arena were to have begun in July.