Sony Pictures this weekend emerged as the front-runner in a frenzied bidding war to acquire film rights to footage from Michael Jackson's rehearsals for his "This Is It" comeback concert series, it was reported Monday.
Sources close to the negotiations told the Los Angeles Times that AEG Live, the concert promoter behind the planned 50-concert tour at London's O2 Arena, offered the rights to some 1,200 hours of rehearsal footage to all the major movie studios last week. Sony, Fox, Paramount and Universal all submitted bids.
But Sony's aggressive $50 million offer -- coupled with the fact that its music division controls distribution of Jackson's output as an adult solo performer and retains the right to block a competing studio from using his songs -- put the studio in the strongest position, a source told The Times.
Sony also controls "sync" rights to most of Jackson's songs; such rights are involved whenever recorded music is used in combination with visual images in a production, an important component in the property's future DVD release. The plan is for a movie to be theatrically released in October, according to The Times.
AEG is also selling the broadcast rights for a prime-time TV special using staging and choreography Jackson created for his "This Is It" concerts. That property prompted fevered competition among networks over the weekend, according to The Times.
A person with knowledge of the deal told The Times that the special would be broadcast in September. It will feature a superstar ensemble that might include Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake and will.i.am, a source told The Times.
Sources close to NBC told The Times that the network is in negotiations to air the special.