Updated Monday 8:30 am:
Sony has all but closed a deal to acquire the Michael Jackson rehearsal footage filmed before the pop star was to make his comeback tour in London. A parallel deal for TV rights to a tribute concert was still stalled in negotiations.
The movie deal will clear the way to what is certain to be a huge, worldwide draw for the millions of Jackson fans who were devastated by his sudden death. The film will allow them a unique glimpse of their idol performing in what turned out to be the final hours of his life.
Sony was closing the deal with concert promoter AEG Live for north of $50 million, following a pitched bidding war among several Hollywood studios, including Universal and Fox.
Meanwhile the rights to television broadcast of a planned tribute concert had stalled. An individual close to the negotiation denied reports that NBC was the leading contender for the rights.
Instead, executives at AEG Live were mulling a pay-per-view option, and trying to decide whether asking fans to pay to watch a tribute concert – which would not include footage licensed to Sony – would erode the audience for the film.
The tribute concert would recreate Jackson’s planned stage extravaganza, featuring other performers.
TheWrap first reported that the concert promoter had recorded the full rehearsal that took place at Staples the night before Jackson’s collapse and death.
The rehearsal was recorded in multi-camera HD and 3D, and is of a quality that could be released as a movie, or DVD. AEG later confirmed the report, and said that it had "at least 100 hours" of footage of Jackson during rehearsals, and behind the scenes.
AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips said in an email to TheWrap that four studios were in the bidding, and that "they all had great ideas and were equally impressive and aggressive."
While a total of four major studios were in the bidding, Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal made an especially aggressive bid for the footage, according to one person involved in the negotiations.
The footage would be put together for a feature film, and another knowledgeable individual said that "High School Musical" impresario Kenny Ortega, who served as the concert’s choreographer, would be the likely choice as director.
The footage includes several videos that were to be shown between breaks during the concerts but most explosively includes several hours of Jackson’s final rehearsal which took pace at the Staples Center on the night before his death.
Negotiations had hit a fever pitch over the weekend. By late Sunday evening, the deal was not yet done, but a person involved said that Sony was "very close."
An AEG spokesman denied knowledge of negotiations on Saturday but noted that most of any profits from such a deal would go to the Jackson estate.