Las Vegas got a sneak peak of Michael Jackson’s final artistic creation Tuesday night.
This is It premiered at midnight across the country, but privileged audiences in Las Vegas were given a few hours’ jump on the official opening time.
Two advance screenings were held at the Palms Casino Resort, following the dedication of a Celebrity Star at Brenden Theatres to the Jacksons’ father, Joe Jackson, and the King of Pop’s famously talented siblings.
The Jackson family patriarch was in the audience for the 9 p.m. screening of This is It last night, as were fighter Floyd Mayweather Jr., UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell, dozens of MJ fan club members and other invited guests.
“I’m so proud to be here to see this movie,” Joe Jackson said, noting he hadn’t seen it yet.
Vegas DeLuxe Web site’s Robin Leach, who served as emcee for the event, noted that virtually no one had seen the film before last night. While Leach is largely considered a Hollywood insider, he had only seen 12 minutes of the movie before Tuesday’s screening.
One of the few people who had seen it, he said, was Jackson’s longtime friend and confidant, Elizabeth Taylor.
“She saw it last week and said that it was an absolute chronicle. Not only of cinema history, but of a genius at work,” Leach said.
This is It is nearly two hours of documentary-style feature film. It serves as a video archive of Jackson’s last days and was shot during rehearsals at the Staples Center in Los Angeles as the fallen performer prepared for what was to be his comeback.
Jackson died on June 25, less than three weeks before the first comeback concert was to take place.
The then-50-year-old star’s untimely passing was attributed to prescription drug complications and corresponding cardiac arrest.
The tour was slated to have the same, now tragically appropriate, name as the movie: This is It.
The 50-show residency at London’s O2 Arena was to open on July 13.
“Fortunately for all of us, when Michael started the process of building the ‘This is It’ show, everything was captured on videotapes,” Leach said on Tuesday, noting, “Over 100 hours of video was recorded.”
Editors later used that footage, which was originally intended for Jackson’s personal archives and library, to create the film.
Sony Records subsidiary, Columbia Pictures, paid $60 million for rights to the footage, according to the Associated Press. What’s more, Jackson’s estate will receive 90 percent of the profits and the driving force behind the ill-fated live show, AEG Live, will receive the remaining 10 percent.
Yet most Jackson fans don’t care about the money. For them, it’s all about MJ.
“This is all about the genius of a musical superstar,” Leach said.
This is It will play in theaters coast to coast for the next two weeks. After that, though, that will be that.
In that way, the film serves as Jackson’s farewell tour.
Jackson’s father appeared humbled by last night’s fanfare.
“Michael was a great entertainer all over the world and he was liked all over the world,” Joe Jackson told the audience. “He just happened to be my son.”