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China gets Jackson day-date release

'This Is It' cleared for Oct. 28

HONG KONG -- The Michael Jackson documentary "This Is It" has snapped up one of the last of China's 20 annual foreign movie import slots, a Sony Pictures executive said Tuesday.

Chinese censors approved the film before the weeklong National Day holiday that started on Oct. 1, clearing it in time for the global release date of Oct. 28, Li Chow, Sony Pictures Releasing International's general manager for China said in a phone interview.

Li said Sony Pictures will give the movie as wide a release as possible because of Jackson's big fan base in China, depending on how many prints they can issue before Oct. 28. China had nearly 4,100 screens at the end of 2008.

"We'll do as many prints as possible. It depends on the labs," Li said.

China only allows 20 major foreign films to be released in the country every year on a revenue-sharing basis. But those Hollywood releases are often immensely popular. China's two most recent all-time box office records were both set by American films. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" broke the 11-year-old record set by "Titanic" in July by earning 400 million Chinese yuan ($59 million).

Directed by longtime Jackson collaborator Kenny Ortega, "Michael Jackson: This Is It" draws on hundreds of hours of footage as Jackson prepared for a series of London concerts for which he was rehearsing before his death on June 25.

Calls Tuesday to state-run China Film Group, which decides which foreign movies to import, went unanswered.