Sometimes hype can be your own worst enemy in the movie business and that appears to be the case with “MIchael Jackson’s This Is It.” Rushed out less than six months after the passing of the musical icon, the pseudo documentary compiled from rehearsal footage of his planned London concert tour was touted as possibly being one of the biggest openers of the year. Based on early online ticket sales and the fascination with Jackson after his death, Sony Pictures and AEG Live were hinting at anywhere from $100-200 million worldwide in the first week alone. Newsflash: that’s not gonna happen now.
Yesterday’s underwhelming $2.2 million from midnight shows was the first warning, but the complete opening day’s gross of $7.4 million is the reality check. With Halloween landing on a Saturday, “This Is It” is looking at a 30-35 million five-day gross at best. And as with most concert films, its box office should fade quickly past opening weekend.
Internationally, Sony is reporting the picture took in a somewhat stronger $12.7 million yesterday. Prospects are certainly higher overseas, but those numbers are still significantly lower than what was initially projected. “This Is It” still has a chance to reach $100 million outside the U.S., but that’s a far cry from the massive blockbuster Sony was hoping for.
Some quick comparison, last year Walt Disney released the concert film “Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds” in February of 2009 on only 683 screeens for an opening day of $8.6 million. While that was a Friday, the more universally hyped “This Is It” made less on four times the number of screens (3,000).
Its important to note that while Sony paid $60 million to acquire the rights to the material from AEG Live, additional millions were invested to edit and complete the film as well as market it. And considering the ad blitz you may have experienced, that budget wasn’t miniscule. Optimists will note the film received an “A” Cinemascore rating with moviegoers, but long range financial prospects look stronger in the home entertainment arena.
The Jackson Estate won’t suffer from the disappointing opening, however. Forbes just announced Jackson’s assets have grossed over $72 million since his passing.
Look for continuing updates on the box office performance of “This Is It” as the holiday weekend progresses.