The Gloved One looks likely to have a posthumous hit at the box office this weekend.
Sony Pictures bows the Michael Jackson documentary This Is It as the week's sole wide release. Sony will get the jump on the weekend by moonwalking This Is It into about 3,500 theaters starting at 9 p.m. PDT Tuesday night.
Executives said they expect about the same number of engagements during the weekend. The film is getting a limited Imax rollout in 96 theaters domestically and another 27 internationally.
Advance sales have been very good, Sony distribution topper Rory Bruer said. This is something unique. It's an event, and we're very excited about the potential but really can't quantify it yet.
This Is It opens amid reams of media attention and broad expectations of a big opening. Advance ticketing has been strong for the picture, which Sony says will play in theaters for two weeks only.
Regal Entertainment will christen its new 14-plex in downtown Los Angeles' L.A. Live complex by programing This Is It on every screen for its first few days.
Online ticket sales began about a month ago, with hundreds of performances quickly selling out, including all the 9 p.m. shows Tuesday at the L.A. Live venue. Pre-release tracking surveys suggest the music-filled documentary could ring up $40 million or more through Sunday.
Jackson died June 25 of a prescription drug overdose, and Sony subsequently acquired distribution rights for a reported $60 million. The film offers footage from the pop singer's rehearsal sessions for a planned month of concerts in London.
Sony executives likely will reassess the two-week limited release strategy if it performs well at the box office.
In a related gambit, a new Jackson song called This Is It was released a couple of weeks ago and has received wide radio airplay.
Faced with the onslaught of This Is It and competition Saturday from Halloween, other distributors won't be debuting new wide releases.