UPDATE: The release date has been bumped up two days to Oct. 28. The film will have a two-week theatrical run. Tickets go on sale Sept. 27.
The King of Pop is about to become a movie star.
The judge hearing the execution of Michael Jackson's estate got the chance to play studio exec today, effectively greenlighting This Is It by signing off on a deal allowing Columbia Pictures to turn AEG's footage of the singer's comeback rehearsals (and, as it happens, final days) into a feature-length film.
The film, for which Columbia wasted no time setting the Thrillerific release date of Oct. 30, was approved after "very aggressive" negotiations.
Katherine Jackson and the attorneys for the estate, John McClain and John Branca, agreed to the deal on Friday. Per the terms, Columbia will pony up $60 million for rights to the footage of his London prep work.
To sweeten the pot, AEG promised that 90 percent of the film's profits would be funneled back into the estate.
On your mark, get set…Fandango!
While Judge Mitchell Beckloff signed off on the agreement Friday, he formally announced the deal this morning.
This Is It will feature Jackson's last rehearsals for his would-be U.K. residency along with behind-the-scenes footage—all of which will be shown in high definition and some of which will be shown in 3-D.
In addition to the Michael-centric scenes, the film will also offer a retrospective of Jackson's life and career and feature interviews with friends and collaborators (though interestingly not, per the press release, with family, unless they're simply being included in the latter category).
Fans need not worry about a possible smear campaign, however. Branca said the film would "treat Michael's legacy with dignity and respect."
Kenny Ortega, the director of High School Musical and Jackson's director and choreographer for the This Is It concerts, has equally high hopes for the project.
"It will also show Michael as one of the greatest entertainers in the world and one of the industry's most creative minds…I think the footage will show that the process was something that Michael deeply enjoyed and that it was clear he was on his way to another triumph."
The movie's release wasn't the only thing decided in court today. Here are some highlights from this morning's hearing, which Katherine did not attend:
• Beckloff announced that he will appoint a special guardian, Margaret Lodise, to represent the financial interests of Paris, Prince Michael and Blanket in all matters relating to their father's estate. The guardian will be in place in time for the next hearing, a week from today.
• Court documents signed off on Friday but released today confirm that the estate's special administrators have been granted the power to enter into book publishing agreements, including reprinting Jackson's autobiography Moonwalk; merchandising transactions, including 2010 calendars, commemorative coins, posters and Jackson-themed school supplies; and a distribution deal for Jermaine Jackson's emotional performance of "Smile" as sung at his brother's public memorial.
• Beckloff ruled in favor of sealing all documents relating to business agreements between Jackson's estate, AEG and Bravado.
• Special administrators of Jackson's estate requested an extension on the discovery process, saying it "has to take a backseat" to more pressing matters related to the estate. They added that they were still seeking depositions, though did not specify from whom. "I bet you can fill in the blanks," they told the judge.
• Billie Jean Jackson, the woman who has long purported to be the mother of Blanket, attended the hearing sans lawyer. After declaring herself to be the baby mama of the youngest Jackson child, she requested that all probate hearings be stopped. The judge told her any issues should be formally submitted to the court, at which point she left the hearing.
• As promised/threatened, Claire Elisabeth Fields "Cruise" also attended the hearing…or at least turned up at the courthouse to give one of the wackiest press conferences ever caught on tape. During her makeshift presser, she not only claimed to be the biological mother of all three of Jackson's kids, she claimed that she and Jackson were also the biological parents of Connor Cruise. She claims Jackson handed the boy over to Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman "because of the color of his skin." Apparently, those voices in her head forgot to warn her: Hell hath no fury like Cruise's litigious reps.
—Additional reporting by Claudia Rosenbaum
(Originally published Aug. 10, 2009 at 1 p.m. PT)