Aiming to create a cinematic happening for its newly acquired Michael Jackson movie, Sony Pictures Entertainment announced Thursday that "Michael Jackson: This Is It" will be released in a limited two-week run, and moved up its opening by two days to Oct. 28.
In an attempt to stoke fan anticipation for the film, the studio is taking the unusual step of putting tickets on sale Sept. 27, more than a month before the film arrives at multiplexes.
The movie draws on more than 80 hours of behind-the-scenes and rehearsal footage shot in the buildup to Jackson's sold-out London concerts, which were to begin last month. The 50-year-old singer was found dead in his rented Holmby Hills mansion June 25.
"As we began assembling the footage for the motion picture we realized we captured something extraordinary, unique and very special," the film's director, Kenny Ortega, said in a statement.
Ortega, the director-choreographer behind Walt Disney Co.'s lucrative "High School Musical" franchise and the movie "Dirty Dancing," as well as being Jackson's creative partner on his "Dangerous" and "HIStory" tours, worked closely with the performer 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," Ortega said.
Disney used a similar unorthodox release strategy for its 2008 3-D concert movie "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds" that drove attendance in its opening weekend and resulted in a surprise No. 1 hit.
Sony's Columbia Pictures division paid concert promoter AEG Live $60 million for the rights to make a feature-length movie out of the "This Is It" rehearsal footage.
Moving the release date of "This Is It" to Oct. 28, a Wednesday, also makes solid tactical sense for Sony with Halloween being one of the toughest weekends of the year at the U.S. box office.
Contrary to earlier reports, filmmakers said "This Is It" would not contain sequences shot in 3-D.