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Category: Michael Jackson

Dancing games 'Beat It' in January, but overall video game sales stumble again

Michael Jackson The Experience 

Bye, bye, music games. Hello, dancing games!

As the market for music simulation games craters, dancing titles are rising to the occasion. Three dancing games moonwalked their way to the top 10 sellers in January, according to a report released Thursday by the NPD Group.

Two of the dancing titles came from Ubisoft, a French game publisher that has proved adept over the last few years at surfing on the crest of fast-rising trends. Its "Just Dance 2" and "Michael Jackson The Experience" were the second and ninth bestselling games in the U.S., respectively.

The rise in sales of dancing games, however, still wasn't enough to offset the overall decline in video game sales, which recorded another down month. 

Music games sales, meanwhile, have fizzled, prompting the largest publisher in that genre, Activision Blizzard Inc., to pull the plug on its Guitar Hero business last week. Another publisher, Viacom Inc.'s MTV Games, sold its Harmonix studio, which developed the Rock Band series of games, for $50 in December to a private investment firm.

Ironically, Harmonix developed Dance Central, the eighth bestselling game in January, before MTV cut the Cambridge, Mass., studio loose.

Though January sales are relatively light in comparison with the three months leading up to Christmas, it still has a bump from holiday gift cards.

Players bought $1.16 billion in games, consoles and accessories last month, down 5% from January 2010, when they shelled out $1.22 billion, according to NPD. Sales of consoles such as the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or Wii fell 8% to $324 million. Consumers spent 5% less, about $576 million, on games to play on those consoles.

To see the top 10 list, click the continue reading link at the bottom of the post.


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Big Sunday shows 'This Is It' isn't performing like a concert film

JacksonIt "This Is It" continues to throw all the old rules about concert movies out the window.

Domestic ticket sales for the Michael Jackson movie totaled $8.3 million on Sunday, nearly $2 million more than the $6.3 million Sony Pictures projected Sunday morning and 17% more than the movie grossed on Saturday. The movie's total domestic gross is now $34.4 million, making the worldwide number $103 million.

Concert movies traditionally see ticket sales decline rapidly after they premiere, as avid fans who turn out on opening day make up most of the audience. But "This Is It" grossed more on Sunday than any day since it debuted, a sign that word-of-mouth is strong and moviegoers who initially may have been hesitant are turning out. There also may be repeat viewing, which is often the case for concert films.

If the trend continues, "This Is It" should enjoy a relatively modest decline next weekend, and what initially looked like a middling domestic performance may actually turn into a pretty good one, albeit not nearly as big as overseas. That's where Jackson is really cleaning up.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Michael Jackson in "This Is It." Credit: Kevin Mazur

'This Is It' on its way to $200 million-plus, thanks mainly to foreigners

"This Is It" poster He's huge in Japan.

Michael Jackson's swan song "This Is It" made up for a so-so start domestically by doing more than twice as much business overseas.

The movie sold $32.5 million over its first five days in the U.S. and Canada and $68.5 million in 97 other countries. It stands with "Angels and Demons" and "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" as one of a handful of films that more than doubled its domestic opening in foreign countries.

Japan, where Jackson is particularly huge, was the highest-grossing territory. "This Is It" collected $10.4 million there, making it the third-biggest opening of the year. Britain, where Jackson's "This Is It" concert was scheduled to play, was No. 2, with $7.4 million, followed by Germany, France, Australia and China.

That's particularly good for Sony Pictures because movies often decline slower overseas than domestically. The movie's foreign opening was right in line with expectations going into the weekend, but the five-day domestic take of $32.5 million was at the bottom of what the studio and others in Hollywood thought was possible based on initial hype and pre-release surveys.

Everywhere it played, the best news for "This Is It" is that it didn't fall dramatically after a so-so start on Wednesday. Although many similar concert movies open big and fizzle fast, the Jackson film had a solid weekend compared with its Wednesday grosses. Domestic ticket sales were down less than 10% on Saturday, better than many in Hollywood had expected on Halloween and a sign of positive buzz.

Now that Sony has, in a not-too-surprising move, extended the movie beyond a previously announced two-week run, the film will almost certainly gross more than $200 million worldwide. That would be a healthy performance given Sony's investment of $60 million for the rights to make the movie, plus a relatively modest marketing spend.

There were no other new pictures in wide release as most studios avoided the weekend with Halloween on a Saturday. Sony was forced to take the date as it wanted to launch the film as quickly as possible after Jackson's unexpected death and every other fall weekend was crowded with big releases.

Boondock Saints II In limited release, however, Apparition debuted "The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day" to a solid $461,614 at 68 theaters. That's more than 15 times as much as the ultra-violent original, an infamous flop in 2000 that found renewed life on DVD.

Interest in the filmmakers behind "Napoleon Dynamite" seems to be fading, however, as their new picture, "Gentlemen Broncos," debuted to a dismal $10,000 at two locations.

Most movies already in the market experienced hefty declines because of Halloween, but "Paranormal Activity" and "Amelia" both held on particularly well, thanks in part to added theaters.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

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Sony's aborted attempt to release 'This Is It' DVD before Christmas

Thisisit Sony Pictures desperately wanted to release the DVD of the Michael Jackson concert movie "This Is It" for the holiday shopping season, but backed down after movie theater owners balked that it was too soon following the film's theatrical premiere.

"This Is It" opened in 99 countries yesterday and is scheduled for a limited two-week run, though the studio may extend that depending on ticket sales.

Sony had hoped to capitalize on audiences' heightened interest in what turned out to be Jackson's final performance by releasing the DVD in mid-December, about a month after the movie ends its short time in theaters. The disc is now expected to come out in late January or early February.

Selling DVDs before Christmas can be particularly lucrative for studios as they are timed to to capture the holiday gift giving season.

While that made sense for Sony, owners of the nation's cinemas were none too happy at the prospect. They have historically urged studios to wait at least 90 days, but preferably four months, from the day a movie opens in theaters to start selling the DVD, in order to maximize ticket sales. For years, studios have honored that "window," in part out of concern that theaters would retaliate by not booking some of their movies or driving harder deal terms.

Sony executives tried to persuade theater operators to make an exception for "This Is It," given its short life span on the big screen and the uniqueness of the picture.

"We felt we made a pretty good case as to why this movie was different," said Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, who oversees worldwide marketing and distribution.

However, the movie theater owners refused to budge.

"We had several conversations with Sony and so did our members," said John Fithian, president of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, an industry trade group. "Anytime we see the window go under three months, we alert our members and raise concerns with the studios."

After hearing complaints from executives at several of his member companies, Fithian said, "I raised a general concern with Sony about the extraordinarily short window."

After talking with theater owners, Sony, whose DVD releases on average come out four months and four days after a movie's theatrical run, reluctantly decided to back off from its request in order to preserve good relations with them.

"We didn't want it to be an issue," said Blake. "At the end of the day, we wanted a big theatrical run and they certainly stepped up and supported that with 6,000 screens in 3,481 theaters."

However, the Sony executive acknowledged that he was sorry the studio didn't get what it it wanted. "It would have made a big financial difference to us," he noted.

All of Hollywood is feeling the pain of an industry-wide decline in DVD sales, which are down more than 13% this year.

Sony is not the only studio that has recently attempted to push up the traditional DVD window. Paramount Pictures is releasing its summer event film "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" in the home entertainment market on Nov. 3, 88 days after it first hit theaters, which raised the ire of many exhibitors.

In 2005, Walt Disney Co. chief executive Bob Iger suggested that the studio might someday respond to consumers' growing impatience to see entertainment when and how they want it by releasing films simultaneously in theaters and on DVD. After theater owners responded in outrage, along with Disney's then-studio chief Dick Cook, Iger went silent on the subject for years.

However, in a keynote address earlier this month, Iger revisited the topic. "In order to keep the DVD business vital, that product has to be perceived as being fresh in the marketplace," the Disney chief said  at a conference at the University of Southern California. "The press to move the DVD window up, be it physical or digital, will grow because of that phenomenon."

--Claudia Eller and Ben Fritz

Photo: Michael Jackson in "This Is It." Credit: Sony Pictures.

'This Is It' headed for $10 million to $12 million opening day

JermaineIsIt The opening-day box office for "This Is It" is neither a "Thriller" nor "Bad."

According to executives at several studios who have been tracking the returns, the new Michael Jackson documentary is likely to sell $10 million to $12 million worth of tickets domestically today.

Though that number could vary a bit depending on how later screenings perform, executives experienced in tracking box office said the movie had virtually no chance of collecting more than $15 million or less than $9 million.

"This Is It" sold $2.2 million worth of tickets last night; most of that probably occurred after midnight and can be counted in today's grosses.

Comparisons with other movies are difficult, given that the only major releases studios have put out on a Wednesday outside of summer or the holidays are "The Passion of the Christ," a phenomenon that benefited from group purchases by churches, and "The Matrix Revolutions," the third movie in a blockbuster trilogy. Those pictures collected $26.6 million and $24.3 million, respectively, on their opening days.

The movie's big test will come Friday. Ticket sales Thursday are expected to be slow as most hard-core Michael Jackson fans will have come out last night or today. Saturday will also be slow because it's Halloween, historically a dismal day at the box office even though Sony is trying to generate publicity connected to Jackson's album "Thriller."

If word of mouth is strong and moviegoers beyond the most devoted Jackson fans are interested, that is  likely to be evident in healthy ticket sales Friday. If it's a slow day, Sony may be looking at a five-day gross as low as $30 million and a soft two-week run relative to its investment of $60 million in rights to make the movie and tens of millions more in marketing.

Ultimately, however, domestic ticket sales may not be that important. "This Is It" is expected to perform substantially better overseas, where it could be a major hit regardless of how the film does in the U.S. and Canada. Box-office receipts from the 95 foreign countries where "This Is It" opened simultaneously are not yet available.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Jermaine Jackson arrives at the premiere of "This Is It" at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles last night. Credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images

'This Is It' collects $2.2 million from late night shows

ThisItPremiereMichael Jackson fans beat it to theaters in droves last night.

"This Is It" sold $2.2 million worth of tickets in late night Tuesday screenings in the U.S. and Canada, a strong number for a weeknight outside of the summer, when most adults have work and kids have school the next day.

The healthy debut is good news for Sony, which spent a hefty $60 million to acquire rights to make the movie and has invested tens of millions more in marketing around the world.

Most Sony insiders had expected a solid start, however, since audience surveys showed there was a relatively small but passionate group of moviegoers who wanted to see "This Is It" as soon as possible. The big question is whether word-of-mouth will attract more casual Jackson fans in the coming days and whether those who turned out opening night will return a second (or fifth?) time.

Nonetheless, everybody loves a big launch. And with $2.2 million already in the bank, "This Is It" could easily gross more than $15 million by the end of today.

The big money for "This Is It" will come from overseas, however, where the movie opened in 97 territories last night and today. Sony executives are predicting the movie will collect at least twice as much from foreign countries as it does domestically. International ticket sales aren't yet available, though a studio spokesman said that "early indications already reveal strong late show and early matinee attendance" overseas.

--Ben Fritz


"This Is It" review

Michael Jackson should have been there

Will 'This Is It' perform like Jackson?

Photo: Young fans watching red carpet arrivals at last night's premiere of "This Is It" at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Michael Jackson should have been there


It was just plain weird that Michael Jackson wasn't at last night's world premiere of his concert film "This Is It" at L.A. Live's Nokia Theatre.

"He would have loved this," said Sony Pictures movie chief Amy Pascal, whose studio paid $60 million for the rights to the film that features behind-the-scenes footage that AEG shot of the late singer's rehearsals for the London concerts that never happened.

You could almost picture Jackson moonwalking down the red carpet (it was actually a red dance floor), with crystal chandeliers dramatically swaying over head in a freak windstorm and dancers dressed in sequined body suits performing acrobats in open cages suspended in air. 

As his soulful pop tunes blasted on loudspeakers, some 5,500 guests, including Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, and, of course, Paris Hilton, posed for the paparazzi. Kenny Ortega, who directed and produced the film, stopped Jackson's four brothers on the way into the theater to thank them for "going out of their way to be here tonight." No sign of Janet or Daddy Joe. Even Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made an appearance.

Jackson would have been amused to see Sony's Pascal in her Jackson-like get-up; a white fedora hat with a black ribbon, a white V-neck T-shirt, cropped black military-style jacket and ultra-low black hip-hugger slacks with silver sequenced stripes down the sides and a matching belt. You go girl.

PASCAL At the after-party, on the roof of a parking lot in a big white tent with a circular bar on a revolving floor, Pascal and others spoke to me about the bittersweet nature of the Jackson tribute. They all loved the film and found it so moving, but of course if Jackson hadn't unexpectedly died in June from the effects of a powerful anesthetic and other medications, the one-hour, 51-minute movie culled from more than 100 hours of his rehearsal footage wouldn't have been made for public consumption. It was originally intended for Jackson's personal archives. What's striking about the film is how committed, physically fit (though way thin) and man-in-charge Jackson the artist appeared in the footage.

"He was at the top of his game and had a message he wanted to spread," said Pascal, referring to Jackson's public plea to spread the love and save the planet. "Kenny Ortega really captured the human being that Michael probably never would have let the public see."

Jackson friend and former "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul also expressed mixed emotion.

"For me the film was great, brilliant, poignant and sad--a totally mixed bag of emotions," said Abdul, recalling how as a Laker girl she was hired to choreograph and direct Michael Jackson's 1984 Victory Tour. "It's a celebration of life and sadness that he's not here," she said of the movie.

Last night's gala event was one of 34 world premieres being held, including half that were simultaneously taking place in cities such as New York, Moscow and London.

The film, which opened last night at 9 p.m. standard time in 99 territories around the globe, by this weekend will be playing on 15,000 screens, including at 3,400 theaters in the U.S. and Canada.

"`This Is It' has always been for the fans," Ortega said when he took the stage at the Nokia to introduce the movie. "Michael, we love you more."

--Claudia Eller


"This Is It" review

Michael Jackson should have been there

Will 'This Is It' perform like Jackson?

Photos: Top: Michael Jackson fans at the L.A. premiere of "This Is It." Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images. Bottom: Director Kenny Ortega and Sony's Amy Pascal. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Michael Jackson movie opening moved up two days

Now this is really it.

Aiming to create a cinematic happening out of the theatrical release of its newly acquired Michael Jackson movie, Sony announced today that “Michael Jackson: This Is It” will arrive in theaters for a limited two-week run on Oct. 28 — two days earlier than its original release date.

MJ And in an attempt to stoke fan anticipation for the film — which includes more than 80 hours of behind-the-scenes and rehearsal footage shot in the lead-up to Jackson’s sold-out London comeback concerts — the studio is taking the unusual step of putting tickets on sale Sept. 27, more than a month before the film arrives at multiplexes.

“As we began assembling the footage for the motion picture we realized we captured something extraordinary, unique and very special,” said the film’s director, Kenny Ortega, in a statement. Ortega, the director-choreographer behind Disney’s lucrative “High School Musical” TV-movie franchise and the movie “Dirty Dancing,” as well as Jackson’s creative partner on his Dangerous and HIStory tours, worked closely with the performer up until his death as director of Jackson’s This Is It concerts.

“For the first time ever, fans will see Michael as they have never seen him before — this great artist at work. It is raw, emotional, moving and powerful footage that captures his interactions with the ‘This Is It’ collaborators that he had personally assembled for this once in a lifetime project,” said Ortega.

Disney made successful use of a similarly unorthodox release strategy for its 3-D concert movie “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds.” That film’s limited two-week engagement in February 2008 drove attendance in its opening weekend, resulting in “Best of Both Worlds” becoming a surprise No. 1 hit.

Moving “This Is It’s” release date to Oct. 28 from Oct. 30 also makes solid tactical sense for Sony.

Halloween, which falls this year on a Saturday, typically the biggest day of the week for movie attendance, is one of the toughest weekends of the year at the U.S. box office, although the date finds a natural correlation with one of the songs included in “This Is It”: Jackson’s ghoulishly themed smash hit “Thriller.”

Contrary to earlier reports, the filmmakers confirmed that “This Is It” will not contain sequences shot in 3-D.

— Chris Lee

Photo: Michael Jackson. Credit: Kevin Mazur/AEG Getty Images

Michael Jackson movie coming out Oct. 30 with 3-D sequences [Updated]

JacksonRehearsal Michael Jackson will be hitting the big screen on one of the toughest dates of the year at the box office.

Sony Pictures today confirmed the long-reported deal that it is joining with Sony Music Entertainment to release a movie featuring behind-the-scenes and rehearsal footage from preparation for the late singer's "This Is It" concert series in London.

Sony paid $60 million to concert producer AEG and the singer's estate for rights to turn the footage into a movie. Though the deal was negotiated last month, it was officially approved by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge today.

The studio will release the film, also called "This Is It," worldwide on Friday, Oct. 30. Sony will no doubt be tying the opening into Michael Jackson's Halloween-oriented classic album and video "Thriller." But with the holiday falling on a Saturday, attendance will likely be soft on what's normally the busiest movie-going day of the week.

Many of the fall's best release dates are already taken, however. The only other movie currently scheduled to open Oct. 30 is The Weinstein Co.'s comedy "Youth in Revolt."

Sony also revealed that some sequences, which were shot for use in the concert, will be in digital 3-D.

[Updated 2:55 p.m.: Now that the deal has been approved by the court, said a source close to the project, Sony will begin negotiations with "High School Musical" director Kenny Ortega, Jackson's creative partner on the concert series, to direct the movie.

That will consist primarily of sorting through and editing the hundreds of hours of footage for which Sony has obtained theatrical rights.]

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Michael Jackson rehearsing for his "This Is It" concert series. Credit: Kevin Mazur, AP.

Bruno: Michael Jackson jokes no longer funny [Updated]

Updated with Universal Statement.

Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen is a fearless, equal-opportunity offender, but when it comes to jokes about Michael Jackson in Cohen's new film "Bruno," there apparently are limits: at the last minute, "Bruno's" filmmakers have cut out a sequence about Jackson and his sister, La Toya.

When the film was shown to audiences several weeks ago, "Bruno" included a scene where Cohen's title character -- a flamboyant Austrian fashion journalist -- conducts staged interviews with C-list celebrities, including Paula Abdul and La Toya Jackson. When Cohen's Bruno character is interviewing La Toya, he asks about Michael Jackson and then takes La Toya's personal digital assistant and begins looking for Michael's telephone number.

Cohen then begins dictating some numbers in German to an assistant (the suggestion is that they are Michael's phone number) as La Toya becomes increasingly alarmed by Cohen's conduct, which includes using kneeling Mexican laborers as chairs). Soon thereafter, La Toya leaves in the middle of the interview.

But when "Bruno" was shown to Hollywood insiders at the film's Thursday night premiere, the scene was nowhere to be found. The sequence was apparently deleted between Michael Jackson's death in the middle of the afternoon and the commencement of the screening around 8 p.m.

Universal Studios, the film's producer and distributor, issued a statement saying the scene was removed out of respect to the Jackson family.

-- John Horn


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