'This Is It' grosses $7.4 mil on Wednesday

Pic should open north of $40 million through Sunday

Sony's much-hyped Michael Jackson documentary "This Is It" moonwalked to an upbeat $7.4 million in estimated first-day boxoffice on Wednesday.

Pre-release forecasts had projected that the pic would open upward of $40 million through Sunday, but some questioned whether the first day tally still would allow that. Due to the unusual nature of the film, industryites have been more divided than usual in the range of projections for "This Is It," and projecting anything further based on its first-day gross would be slippery as well.

"This Is It" bowed simultaneously in 97 foreign territories, which outperformed U.S. and Canadian grosses by ringing up $12.7 million on Wednesday. That made for a first-day worldwide boxoffice of $20.1 million.

Sony promoted its release of the pic as a two-week-only theatrical campaign. But that could change if word of mouth sustains theatrical momentum following solid early support from critics.

For now, the limited theatrical window seems to be stoking must-see interest in the film, and Sony has pulled out all stops to market the film including lots of stunt promos.

"The studio believes that the worldwide launch -- with very strong performance across North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia -- represents an amazing beginning for the film and a reaffirmation of the global appeal of Michael Jackson," Sony said Thursday.

The first-day haul for "This Is It" easily topped daily domestic rankings, though it set no records and fell short of what some had expected amid feverish advance ticketing activity. Paramount's supernatural thriller "Paranormal Activity" was second among all Wednesday grossers with $1.5 million and a $66.6 million cume, while Overture Films' crime thriller "Law Abiding Citizen" ranked third with $880,000 and a $43.1 million cume.

Sony unspooled "This Is It" at 9 p.m. PDT Tuesday, but the studio included those grosses -- totaling $2.2 million -- in its Wednesday tally. Sony acquired worldwide distribution rights to the pic for a reported $60 million.

"This Is It" contains rehearsals footage, interviews and back stage scenes from preparations for what would have been the late singer's month-long concert extravaganza in London. AEG Entertainment subsequently announced plans for the docu, which was directed by "High School Musical" helmer Kenny Ortega.