Sony bids £31 million for Jackson rehearsal footage

Sony's movie studio is understood to have bid £31 million for worldwide distribution rights to a film based on rehearsal footage for Michael Jackson's This Is It comeback concert series.

An insider said the bid came after several studios, including Paramount, Universal and 20th Century Fox, were shown the footage.

The winning studio would produce the film with Jackson's concert promoter AEG Live, and his estate. It would go a long way to helping AEG Live recoup some of the millions it spent producing the concert before Jackson, 50, died on June 25.

Sony Pictures has a leg up on other bidders because Sony Music distributes Jackson's music and is in a 50-50 partnership with his estate in Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

Sony's bid is on par with the cost of making a mid-range budget movie, and is offset by the fact that the Sony group of companies would benefit from the music licensing rights attached to the film.

There is also massive interest in Jackson material worldwide. An estimated 31 million viewers in the US alone watched the Jackson memorial service live earlier this month, according to Nielsen Media Research - just shy of the 33 million US viewers who watched Diana, Princess of Wales's funeral.

"This type of a story, if put together right, could be very compelling and draw a very, very wide audience," said Mark Fleischer, an entertainment lawyer with Venable LLP and former executive at MGM Studios.

The estate and AEG Live are also negotiating with several television networks and pay-per-view outlets on a TV special that would be a stage show featuring Jackson's music and dancing. It would be directed by This Is It director Kenny Ortega.

The selling price being discussed for the rights to show the TV special is also in the tens of millions of dollars.

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