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Michael Jackson rehearsal video may be headed to theaters

AEG Live is in talks with movie studios for film rights to footage of rehearsals and broadcast rights to a TV special.

July 22, 2009|Maria Elena Fernandez and Chris Lee

Frenzied interest in all things Michael Jackson notwithstanding, it appears a TV special based on the pop star's comeback concerts won't be on the air this fall.

AEG Live, the promoter behind Jackson's 50-date This Is It London concert engagement, has been negotiating for several days with movie studios for the film rights to high-definition video footage of his rehearsals as well as broadcast rights to a tie-in TV special.

Although NBC was interested in the project as recently as Monday, and other networks showed interest last week, all of the networks balked over AEG's $20-million price tag for a show that would not include any new or exclusive footage of Jackson performing, several network sources said.

Originally, AEG had tried to sell the special to air on Saturday, Aug. 29 -- Michael Jackson's birthday. But logistical problems -- which include Saturday being the lowest-rated night of the week for TV -- compelled AEG to push networks to program the special in September when TV viewers return in high numbers, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of not being authorized to speak on the matter.

NBC executives declined to comment. But, according to published reports, NBC wanted to air the concert as a possible lead-in for the Sept. 14 premiere of Jay Leno's new 10 p.m. talk show. Meanwhile, other TV networks also feared the TV special would be too similar in content to the documentary film of the rehearsal.

Over the weekend, Sony Pictures emerged as the front-runner for the property, and an announcement about that deal is expected after review by a probate court. The film would be directed by choreographer Kenny Ortega ("High School Musical"), who worked with Jackson as the director of the This Is It tour. The film will be released in October.

If AEG had gotten its way, the TV special also would have been directed by Ortega. The plans were for a superstar ensemble that could have included Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake and will.i.am performing Jackson's hits using the costumes, choreography and special-effects driven illusions engineered for the singer's comeback.

But no footage of the King of Pop.

"And the cost of that thing is $20 million? With no Michael Jackson? Ha!" said one network source who requested anonymity.

AEG did not return calls or e-mails requesting comment.

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maria.elena.fernandez@latimes.com

chris.lee@latimes.com

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