'This Is It' poised to be a hit

Michael Jackson doc bows in 3,500 theaters Tuesday night

'This Is It' on THR.com
THR's Steven Zeitchik and Matthew Belloni give you the inside scoop on the world-premiere screening from Los Angeles. Also: Receive first impressions on the film from chief film critic Kirk Honeycutt immediately after the screening by signing up for THR.com's Breaking News newsletter.

By Carl DiOrio

ORLANDO -- The gloved one looks likely to have a posthumous hit at the boxoffice this weekend.

Sony bows the Michael Jackson documentary "This Is It" as the session's sole wide release. But despite the relatively competition-free frame, Sony will get the jump on the weekend by moonwalking "This Is It" into about 3,500 theaters starting at 9 p.m. PDT on Tuesday.

Execs said they expect about the same number of engagements during the weekend. The film is getting a limited Imax rollout in 96 theaters domestically and another 27 internationally.

"Advance sales have been very good," Sony distribution topper Rory Bruer said. "This is something unique. It's an event, and we're very excited about the potential but really can't quantify it yet."

"This Is It" opens amid reams of free media hype and broad expectations of a big opening. Advance ticketing has been strong for the pic, which Sony says will play in theaters for two weeks only.

Regal Entertainment will christen its new 14-plex in downtown Los Angeles' L.A. Live complex by programming "This Is It" on every screen for its first few days.

Online ticket sales began about a month ago, with hundreds of performances quickly selling out, including all the 9 p.m. shows tonight at the L.A. Live venue. Prerelease tracking surveys suggest the music-filled doc could ring up $40 million or more through Sunday.

Jackson died June 25, and Sony subsequently acquired distribution rights for a reported $60 million. The film, which bows simultaneously with its domestic opening in most international territories, offers footage from the pop singer's rehearsal sessions for a planned month of concerts in London.

Although Sony said the pic will play for two weeks only, execs likely will reassess that strategy if it plays well.

In a related gambit, a new Jackson song called "This Is It" was released a couple of weeks ago and has received wide radio airplay.

Faced with the onslaught of "This Is It" and competition on Saturday from Halloween, other distributors won't be debuting any other new wide releases.

Fans line up for the L.A. "This Is It" premiere Tuesday (Getty)
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