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First look: 'This Is It' won't quit, takes $101 million worldwide; run extended

November 1, 2009 |  9:14 am

"This Is It" in London Though it didn't live up to the outsize hype and had only a mixed start domestically, "This Is It" is looking like something of a worldwide hit.

The behind-the-scenes look at rehearsals for the late Michael Jackson's concert grossed $101 million over its first five days, more than two-thirds of which came from the 97 foreign territories, where it opened simultaneously Wednesday.

Although that's on the low end of what many at Sony Pictures and around Hollywood had expected given huge anticipation among fans for the film, it's a solid start given that the studio spent $60 million to make "This Is It" and marketing costs weren't too large.

Despite the movie's so-so start in the U.S. and Canada on Wednesday, domestic grosses stayed steady over the weekend, totaling $21.3 million Friday through Sunday. Although many predicted that Halloween falling on a Saturday could be disastrous for the picture, ticket sales declined only modestly from Friday, a sign of good word of mouth for "This Is It," which got an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore, from those who attended on opening day.

Sony got much better news overseas, however, where "This Is It" has grossed $68.5 million through Sunday, a healthy start that confirmed the studio's hope that the movie would perform significantly better in foreign countries, where Jackson's famous personal issues have not made as big of a public impact.

Concert movies typically fall off very fast at the box office, but given its strong word of mouth and decent play on Saturday despite the holiday, "This Is It" has a shot at breaking that trend and ultimately grossing about $200 million worldwide. Sony clearly has its eyes on that prize as it has, to the surprise of few in Hollywood, extended the movie's run beyond the previously announced two week. "This Is It" will play until Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S., about as long as any movie that opens now would keep showing, and have runs of varying lengths overseas.

"This Is It" was the only major new release this weekend, but "Paranormal Activity" held on at a solid No. 2. The indie horror sensation expanded from 1,945 to 2,404 theaters and declined 22% to $16.4 million. Its domestic total is now $84.8 million.

Most movies already in release saw big drops, in large part because of light moviegoing on Halloween. Standouts included "Couples Retreat," "Law Abiding Citizen" and "Amelia," all of which fell less than 50%.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Fans at the premiere of "This Is It" in London on Wednesday. Credit: Richard Lewis / Sony Pictures